Cover image for Uncommon sense : the achievement of Griffin Bell
Uncommon sense : the achievement of Griffin Bell
Murphy, Reg, 1934-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Atlanta, Ga. : Longstreet, [1999]

Physical Description:
310 pages : illustrations, portrait ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
KF373.B42 M87 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



A biography of former attorney general Griffin Bell that addresses his influence on modern legal history.

Author Notes

Reg Murphy is vice chairman of the National Georgraphic Society in Washington, D.C. He has served as publisher of the Baltimore Sun, editor of the Atlanta Constitution, and editor and publisher of the San Francisco Examiner. He is a past president of the United States Golf Association and is a trustee of Mercer University. He resides in Sea Island, Georgia.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

This laudatory tribute to Bell's legal career will find many admirers where judicial activism is scorned. That sentiment stems from his service as a federal appeals judge in the 1960s and 1970s, when his opposition to certain integration schemes, such as student busing, endowed Bell with a conservative reputation, although he had a solid integrationist record on the bench. Murphy chronicles Bell's legal life chiefly by anecdotal means, for example, gathering several subordinates of Attorney General Bell's to reminisce about their boss's praiseworthy character. Praiseworthy it probably is, but unfortunately hagiography is not biography, and the work is too often vague on dates and sources, and it includes material a more detached writer would have deleted, such as a speech to D.C.'s Alfalfa Club. That limits the work's research value for legal and civil rights study; on the positive side, Murphy's anecdotes capture the probity and practicality essential to Bell's judicial temperament. --Gilbert Taylor

Library Journal Review

Murphy, a vice-chair of the National Geographic Society, pays homage to former U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell while offering glimpses into Southern legal history. Murphy chronicles Bell's life from his Depression-era youth in Americus, GA, to his service at the Department of Justice under President Carter and his subsequent return to private practice in Atlanta. Unfortunately, Murphy's approach is casually journalistic, not scholarly; apart from a few interviews with Griffin's associates, he shies away from documentary history and sometimes (curiously) writes in a first-person, editorial way. Unsuccessful as a narrative writer, Murphy overuses saccharine and overwrought phrases to paint an uncritical portrait of Bell and a lopsided view of Southern civil rights history. Libraries with comprehensive Southern history collections may want to purchase, but all others should take a pass; those who would rather read Bell's own words should try to locate his out-of-print Taking Care of the Law (1986).ÄSteven Anderson, Gordon Feinblatt Rothman Hoffberger & Hollander, Towson, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
Chapter 1 Born to Be a Lawyerp. 7
Chapter 2 You're in the Army Nowp. 21
Chapter 3 "He Didn't Use Bad Language"p. 25
Chapter 4 Starting in Old Savannahp. 29
Chapter 5 The Election at Hangoverp. 47
Chapter 6 Politics on the Stumpp. 61
Chapter 7 Running the Kennedy-Johnson Campaignp. 71
Chapter 8 A Choice of Appointmentsp. 79
Chapter 9 To the Streetsp. 103
Chapter 10 What a Judge Should Bep. 115
Chapter 11 Leaving the Benchp. 137
Chapter 12 Here They Come A-Runnin'p. 163
Chapter 13 Cleaning Up After the Massacrep. 189
Chapter 14 A Policy of ... Obfuscation?p. 215
Chapter 15 Justicep. 237
Chapter 16 At the Spine of the Southp. 249
Chapter 17 At Home on the Islandp. 283
Chapter 18 Talking to the Youngp. 293
Afterwordp. 301
Indexp. 303