Loving husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather John Pierce Tucker, Jr. of Gillsville, Ga., passed away peacefully and in the company of family on May 23, 2023, at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, in Gainesville. He was 79 years old.
Born to Dr. John Pierce Tucker, Sr. and Isabel Slade Tucker on July 18, 1943, in Moultrie, John grew up in Bainbridge and Moultrie as the first of five siblings. From an early age, young “Johnny” excelled in the classroom and developed a lifelong love of sports, particularly baseball. He later would recall childhood dreams of playing professional baseball and cherished moments listening to AM radio broadcasts of faraway Major League games on cloudy nights.
John graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Emory University in 1965 with a B.A. in History with highest honors as a member of the DVS and ODK honor societies and ATO fraternity. After earning a Jefferson Memorial Scholarship to continue studying History at the University of Virginia, John noticed his graduate program’s lengthy reading list intruded on baseball playoffs that were more closely followed by law students. So he returned to Moultrie to teach school and transition into adulthood with friends, perhaps briefly vexing his parents, while keeping law school in the corner of his eye. In 1966, John joined the US Navy and thereafter was deployed to Viet Nam where his unit earned the Presidential Unit Citation for valor (the unit equivalent of the Navy Cross) trying to keep rivers open for traffic on the Cambodian border.
After returning from Viet Nam, John worked as a speechwriter for Governor Carl Sanders’ 1970 reelection campaign and enrolled at the University of Virginia School of Law in 1971. During these years, he met and married Charlotte Dekle and became a devout born-again Christian, a faith that would inspire and sustain John for the rest of his life. John and Charlotte would have two sons Hanes and Ashford whom they loved very much.
John was admitted to the Georgia Bar on September 1, 1974, and he practiced law for the next 37 years predominantly as a solo practitioner in Atlanta and Blue Ridge. His legal career began with Troutman Sanders Lockerman & Ashmore in Atlanta, where he initially practiced until 1977 developing a specialty in transportation law. John was a skillful orator and possessed a quick legal mind. One of the most impactful cases of his career centered around the attempt by CSX Transportation to abandon railroad lines between Blue Ridge and Atlanta in 1987. At the request of the Fannin County Commissioners, John spearheaded the legal opposition that culminated at the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The action was the first successful opposition to a railroad abandonment in the United States (after at least 300 failed attempts in various other places). John’s efforts secured time for the State of Georgia Legislature to allocate funds to purchase the lines, which then were leased to a short line operator. Today the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway thrives, welcoming more than 78,000 passengers annually and providing a mighty economic engine in North Georgia.
Throughout his legal career, John always was willing to lend his time and skills to underdogs. He worked tirelessly providing legal advice to nonprofits and individuals in need, spending countless hours on pro bono matters, guiding numerous adoptions to completion and supporting recent immigrants met through his church as they settled in Atlanta.
Following his divorce from Charlotte in 1992, John moved to Blue Ridge where he met Delores Olivia Wilson Hill when she visited his church to speak about her work as a missionary in Bangladesh and Thailand. The two were married in 1998, and John was welcomed into Delores' large family through which he was blessed by his relationships with Delores, her children, and the many grandchildren and great-grandchildren who would become the joys of John’s life for the next 25 years. After much of his cajoling, Delores worked with her connections in the Southern Baptist Church to take John on a mission trip to India for 18 months spanning 2004-2005, a time John often later recounted as the happiest of his life. Following the trip to India, John worked as a hearing officer for the Public Service Commission in Atlanta, then in private practice and as a traffic court judge in Blue Ridge.
In February 2012, John retired from the practice of law due to the combination of his hearing loss from firing automatic rifles in Vietnam and encroaching vision impairment brought on by an unfortunate combination of prescribed medications. John’s faith nevertheless buoyed him, and he remained fiercely optimistic for the remainder of his life. In 2016, he spent several weeks studying at the VA’s Blind Rehabilitation Center learning to be independent and mobile despite his low level of vision. In the following years, he would take public transportation to his VA medical appointments and remained eager to fly around the country whenever the opportunity arose. He also continued to enjoy attending baseball games, where John now could scream that the umpire, too, must be blind while waiving his multicolored folding cane to great comic effect. To the end, whenever he was asked how he was doing, John always replied, “Better than I deserve.”
Had John written this, he would have spent fewer words on himself and more on his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the family and friends who gave his life meaning. Perhaps to the point of irrationality in the eyes of some (a perception that would not bother him), John’s contentment was not dependent on accomplishments and material things. He treated new people he met like his old friends. And when not enjoying his family, he preferred spending his time reading the Bible (or listening to it in later years), talking or singing about Jesus, and strategizing by phone with close friends about Atlanta Braves baseball and Georgia Bulldogs football.
John is survived by his wife Delores Olivia Wilson Hill Tucker, children and stepchildren Hanes Tucker (Desiree Cross), Ashford Tucker (Claire Cunningham), Deangela (Patrick) Chastain, Daniel (Karen) Hill, David Hill, Redmond (Lacey) Hill, siblings Thomas (Nan) Tucker, Sally (George) Lee, George (Janet) Tucker, and Robert (Corbin) Tucker, grandchildren Nathan (Esmaela) Chastain, Jordan Chastain, Colin Hill, Katie (Ethan) Jackson, Aaron (Isabel) Chastain, Roland (Maria) Chastain, Miriam Chastain, Zollie Chastain, Asa Chastain, Jubilee Chastain, Schroeder Cross-Dunn, Kendall (Taylor) Durkee, Daniel Hill, Dylan Hill, Amanda Hill, Caleb Hill, Olivia Hill, and Vivian Hill, great-grandchildren Adora Jackson, Amalie Jackson, Aria Jackson, Aravis Jackson, Elias Chastain, Mary Chastain, and Silas Chastain, nieces and nephews Avery (David) Fontaine, Slade Tucker, Bronson (Elley) Lee, Jonathan Lee, George (Chelsea) Tucker, Michael (Amanda) Tucker, Jennifer (Ben) Hoffer, and Kelly (John) Lindsey, and a devoted black house cat named Mort who was his constant companion in later years.
In lieu of flowers, the family would ask that you consider donating to a scholarship fund for financially disadvantaged youth in John's hometown of Moultrie, Ga., that John was honored to support (working with his oldest friend Pete Sayeski together with John Carlton, Jimmy Jeter, Patrick Mobley, and others). The fund already has raised over $1.4mm and helped four students attain bachelor's degrees at the University of Georgia. There are five other students currently enrolled at various stages of pursuing undergraduate degrees. Donations can be made at https://form.jotform.com/93226389579171 by selecting Moultrie-Colquitt County Alumni Scholarship Fund from the drop-down menu.
Graveside services will be held Wednesday May 31, 2023, at 2:00 p.m. at Georgia National Cemetery in Canton, Ga.
Attendees should try to arrive at Georgia National Cemetery, 1080 Scott Hudgens Dr, Canton, GA 30114 by 1:30pm to attend the military service. Cars will line up. Our window onsite at the commitment facility begins slightly before 2pm and will move quickly: 5 minutes to get in place, 10 minutes for military honors, 10 minutes for our service and 5 minutes to exit. They will take his body to the grave after we leave.
After the service, we will meet up at Boling Park Pavillon, 1200 Marietta Hwy, Canton, GA 30114, to continue with John’s planned celebration of his life.
There will be food and seating. After this time, we are allowed to go to the grave site, and all are welcome join us.
Those wishing to send online condolences to the family may do so at littledavenport.com
Little & Davenport Funeral Home and Crematory, 355 Dawsonville Hwy., Gainesville GA, 30501 is in charge of the arrangements.
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