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Leonard S. Roan

Leonard S. Roan, 1913-1914

Leonard Strickland Roan was born on the 7th of February 1849, in Henry County, Georgia. He died at the Polyclinic Hospital, in the city of New York, March 23, 1915. His great-grandfather, John Roan, was one of the pioneers of the State (or rather the colony) of North Carolina, and lost his life in the battle of King's Mountain, fighting for the cause of American Independence. His grandfather was Leonard Roan, of North Carolina, who married Miss Elizabeth Moore of that State, and who later, moved to Jasper County, Georgia, where Benjamin S. Roan, the father of Judge Roan was born and reared. Benjamin S. Roan was a veteran of the Indian war of 1836 and of the War Between the States. He married Miss Lucy J. Vickers, a direct descendant of Joshua Butt and Mary Portlock Butt, who came from England and settled in Virginia before the Revolutionary war. Benjamin S. Roan and his wife lived in Henry County, Georgia, not many miles from the city of Griffin, at the time of the birth of the subject of this sketch. Judge Roan was the oldest child of the family and was reared on the farm of his father. He received his literary education under the celebrated teachers Morgan H. and George C. Looney, in the Fayetteville High School, at Fayetteville, Georgia. He never attended a law school, but, after the old-time method, obtained his legal training in Griffin, Georgia, in the offices of Peeples & Stewart, a noted law firm composed of the late Judge Cincinnatus Peeples and Judge John D. Stewart, the latter subsequently the representative from the fifth district in Congress.

Judge Roan was admitted to the bar in 1870, and immediately settled in and began the practice of law in Fairburn, Georgia, in Campbell county, where his entire career as a practicing lawyer was spent and where he resided until about two years before his death, when he moved with his family to Atlanta, Georgia. In 1875 Governor James M. Smith appointed him solicitor of the county court. He was a number of times mayor of his town, and took much interest in the upbuilding thereof, and especially in its schools and educational interests. In October 1900, Governor Joseph M. Terrell appointed him as judge of the superior courts of the Stone Mountain circuit to fill the vacancy caused by the elevation of Judge John S. Candler to the Supreme Court. For eleven years he presided over the courts of his circuit, and in addition tried all the felony cases in the Atlanta circuit, besides holding courts frequently in other parts of the State.

His career as a judge was a notable and conspicuous one. Only because of his unusual executive ability and his quick and active legal mind was he able to accomplish the vast amount of work he disposed of during the eleven years he remained on the circuit bench. Trying all the felony business of the Atlanta circuit, comprising Fulton county, in which is the capital and largest city of the State, it fell to his lot to preside at the trial of more celebrated criminal cases than perhaps any other judge who has ever sat on the bench in Georgia; and it was conceded by the bar and the people that he was one of the best trial judges of criminal cases that the State had ever produced; and his record in the trial of civil cases in his own circuit and elsewhere was also a remarkably successful one. He was fair and firm, but lenient and kind-hearted, in the administration of the law.

He was practical and painstaking in all that he undertook. He was a safe counselor and a strong advocate and a skilful manager of cases. He was unusually successful and never failed to secure for a client all that he was entitled to in a case. He was careful and successful in the training of those who studied for the profession in his office; they in almost every instance becoming successful members of the bar.

In October 1913, he was appointed a Judge of the Court of Appeals of Georgia by Governor John M. Slaton, but already the fatal malady that finally caused his death had begun to make serious inroads upon his health and strength, and he was only able to perform the duties of that position for a few months before he went away in an effort to regain his health, which never improved. But the work he did while there showed his usual good judgment and sound legal ability.

In 1875 he married Miss Willie Strickland, daughter of William and Myrtice Strickland, who, with five children, survives him.

Judge Roan, in addition to being an able lawyer, was a business man of excellent judgment and foresight; and, though beginning life just after the war, when the country had been devastated and property was in ruins, and when he, like many others, had no means to start on, he proved himself capable of meeting and overcoming the difficulties that were ahead of him and achieving success from a business as well as a professional standpoint.

He was a deep thinker, relying on his own judgment always, a man of the strictest integrity, tender of heart, and a believer in God and religion. He was a searcher after truth, a lover of nature and the true and the beautiful. He was a faithful friend, a fine lawyer, a great judge, a loving and devoted husband and father, and a good man. Well may his memory be revered and his example emulated.

16 Georgia Appeals Reports, pages 873-878.