District Attorney Lewis R. Slaton

Lewis R. Slaton, An Early Mentor

In 1991 I was hired as an assistant district attorney in the Fulton County District under the leadership of District Attorney Lewis R. Slaton. Mr. Slaton served in this position for 31 years, from 1965 to 1996. He employed minorities and women as investigators and assistant district attorneys at a time when his peers throughout Georgia and the South did not embrace such progressive practices. By the time he retired, a full 50 percent of his attorney staff were minorities or females. In 1968, he hired Clarence Cooper, now a Senior United States District Court Judge in Georgia’s Northern District. Mr. Cooper was the first African American assistant district attorney in Fulton County, and, likely, the entire state of Georgia.

Mr. Slaton had a remarkable ability to remember the names of each Grand Juror in every case, and could carry on personal conversations with each one. I saw him approach these citizens with enthusiasm and respect. Mr. Slaton made people feel seen and important as they carried out their civic duties. I understood from seeing these interactions that Mr. Slaton wanted the Fulton County jurors to personally feel his appreciation for their service. I also understood that his gift of connecting with people allowed him to pursue the spirit and the letter of the law based upon justice and equality for all.

As a young attorney, I saw Mr. Slaton as an old southern gentleman who had two very clear rules: don’t discuss money and don’t embarrass him in the newspaper. (Remember this was before the internet as we know it today, and before Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.) He was wonderfully approachable. I would bounce into his office with various requests. Some were granted. Some were not. All with an easy, friendly air. He was an important mentor, and I am grateful for the opportunity I had to work with him.