The predecessor to Fortson, Bentley and Griffin was formed in June 1946 by T. H. Milner, Jr. and Robert G. Stephens, Jr. following their return from military service in World War II. Milner and Stephens, as the firm was then known, opened its first office in the Tillman Building on College Avenue in downtown Athens.
In 1949, Upshaw C. Bentley, Jr. joined the firm as an associate, and shortly thereafter, the firm relocated a block north on College Avenue to the Southern Mutual Building. In 1952, the name of the firm became Milner, Stephens and Bentley. Following Mr. Milner’s departure in 1954 to become president of The National Bank of Athens (now SunTrust Bank), Mr. Stephens and Mr. Bentley practiced for a year as Stephens and Bentley.
In 1955, Edwin B. Fortson and John E. “Buck” Griffin, each of whom had been practicing law individually, joined the firm and it became known as Stephens, Fortson, Bentley and Griffin. Mr. Stephens was elected to the United States Congress in 1960, and the firm name was shortened to Fortson, Bentley and Griffin.
In the ensuing decades following Mr. Fortson’s and Mr. Griffin’s decisions to join the firm, Fortson, Bentley and Griffin continued to expand and to develop a reputation for providing superior legal representation to its clients. 1983, the firm moved to offices on the corner of College Avenue and Dougherty Street in downtown Athens, Georgia where it remained until relocating to the firm’s present location in August of 2006.
The respect and reputation currently enjoyed by Fortson, Bentley and Griffin stems directly from the weighty contributions of the firm’s founding partners. Mr. Griffin, who passed away in 2002, Mr. Fortson, who passed away in 2007, and Mr. Bentley, who passed away in 2013, left indelible marks on the firm, the Athens community, and our nation.
Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Fortson, Mr. Bentley and Mr. Griffin all served our country in World War II. Mr. Fortson saw combat duty on L.S.T. 23 during amphibious landings at Saipan, Leyte Gulf, Tinian, Peleliu, Lingayen Gulf and San Fabian in the Pacific Theater. Mr. Bentley joined the United States Army Air Corp in 1943 and received his pilot wings in 1944, while Mr. Griffin served for three years in the United States Army Infantry in the 2nd Ranger Battalion. During the D-Day Invasion on June 6, 1944, Mr. Griffin and his fellow Rangers scaled the Normandy Beach cliffs and seized German fortifications. As a result of his service, Mr. Griffin received the Bronze and Silver Stars and a Purple Heart.
After returning to civilian life and joining the firm, Mr. Fortson, Mr. Bentley and Mr. Griffin tirelessly served the citizens of Athens, Georgia, in public and private capacities. Mr. Fortson served as an instructor in Trial Tactics and Legal Ethics at the University of Georgia Lumpkin Law School. He also served on the Board of Governors of the State Bar of Georgia, Board of Visitors of the University School of Law and served as President of the Western Circuit Bar Association. For his part, Mr. Bentley served as Clarke County Attorney from 1958 to 1970, and as the Mayor of Athens from 1976-1980. He was active in civic affairs as well and served at different points in his career as the President of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, the Athens YMCA, and the Northeast Georgia Council of Boy Scouts of America, as well as an Emeritus Trustee of the University of Georgia Foundation. Mr. Griffin was a founder of Athens Academy, where the Lower School still bears his name, and, as a member of the Athens Regional Development Council, he was instrumental in bringing Athens Regional Medical Center to Athens, Georgia.
By remaining steadfast to the principals and ideals of its founding partners, Fortson, Bentley and Griffin has grown into one of the largest, most-respected law firms in Northeast Georgia. Thanks to the enduring legacy of our firm’s founding partners and the continued efforts and service of our firm’s attorneys, Fortson, Bentley and Griffin continues to hold a well-deserved reputation for providing both superior legal representation to its clients in Athens and all of Northeast Georgia and meaningful public service to the Athens area and surrounding communities.