Attorney remembered as mentor

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Longtime Andalusia attorney Sidney Fuller was remembered yesterday as a respected mentor to many in his profession.

Fuller moved to Andalusia to practice law in 1957 after serving as the first law clerk to U.S. District Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., who made a number of landmark civil rights rulings that helped end segregation in the South.

Fuller was among those interviewed by Frank Sikora for his book “The Judge, The Life and Opinions of Alabama’s Frank M. Johnson, Jr.”

Local attorney John Peek said Fuller once told him that in his first week on the job, he was handed the Montgomery bus boycott case to research for Judge Johnson.

Johnson ruled that segregation of bus passengers in Montgomery violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In “Judge,” Sikora wrote, “Johnson had the order in his office and read it a final time, then called in his first law clerk, Syd Fuller. As he handed him the order, Johnson said, ‘Well, Sydney. We’re getting on this horse now. Let’s ride it.’

“Fuller carried the opinion down to the office of the U.S. Clerk to have copies made. As he entered that office, news photographers in the hallways snapped his picture, getting the back of his head. ‘It was history,’ he would say later. ‘and they got the back of my head.’ ”

Fuller’s former law partner, Billy Melton of Evergreen, said his friend didn’t talk much about the year he spent with Judge Johnson.

Fuller, Melton, and Frank Tipler worked together in a firm with offices in Andalusia, Brewton and Evergreen, Melton said.

“Syd Fuller was my mentor. He was my teacher, my very good friend, and he was one of the best lawyers that ever lived in this part of the world,” Melton said. “He was a 10 on a scale of 10. He was solid in every respect. You just don’t see many people like that.”

Peek, who recently acquired Fuller’s former office on the Court Square in Andalusia, said most any Covington County attorney older than 40 “will tell you something Syd Fuller said to them that was impressive to them. He touched a lot of people.”

Opp attorney Wes Laird said he once told Fuller, early in his career, how much he had looked up to him.

“Never missing a chance to impart pearls of wisdom, he replied, ‘My philosophy has always been that if a lawyer truly cares about his client, everything else will fall in place.’

“Truer words were never spoken,” Laird said Tuesday. “For if we really care for our clients, we will put the time and effort in to do the best job we possibly know how to do.

“We can all learn from his example,” Laird said. “He will indeed be greatly missed.”

Fuller was a graduate of Auburn University and the University of Alabama Law School. He was a former president of the Alabama Trial Lawyers Association, and a member of numerous other legal organizations. He was of the Presbyterian faith, and was an elder, trustee Sunday School teacher and past chairman of the board of deacons of First Presbyterian Church.

Fuller was among the 10 investors who purchased what is now CCB Community Bank from SouthTrust in 1985.

He remained active on its board of directors.

Survivors include his wife, Joyce Jeffrey Fuller, and their children, Jeffrey Melton Fuller and Barbara Rush.