Oct. 20, 2009
By Renee DeGross Valdes
Mary F. Radford has spent nearly three decades teaching, writing, researching, and practicing the law of wills, estate, trusts, and guardianship.
But all that fuels another passion. She is a voice for those unheard.
Through her work, including rewriting Georgia’s Guardianship and Probate Codes, she is also helping to modernize laws for incapacitated adults with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Elder law is a new area of the law,” said Radford, who is the Catherine C. Henson endowed professor in the College of Law. “People are living longer. As they grow older, their legal needs change and the law is finally beginning to recognize that.”
Radford also recently completed an article on the “new biology of reproduction,” which references the protections – or lack thereof – for children who are born after a parent (usually the father) has died. The article highlights a case in which the Social Security Administration refused to award benefits to a child who was born as a result of post-mortem sperm retrieval.
“The law is slow to react to scientific and technological developments,” Radford said. “One of my desires is to help write laws that keep up with societal advances.”
Radford’s peers recently recognized her dedication to this area of the law by awarding her the Verner F. Chaffin Career Service Award, given by the Fiduciary Law Section of the State Bar of Georgia. The award honors individuals with outstanding, unselfish and dedicated service to fiduciary law and the citizens of Georgia.
Among her career highlights, Radford spent a year as a Supreme Court Fellow for Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist in the early 1990s. While there, she not only spent countless hours at the nation’s top court, but she participated every morning in a small exercise class organized by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The class was held on the basketball court, which is on the fourth floor of the Supreme Court building and sometimes referred to jokingly as “the highest court in the land.”
Early in her career, the Fulton County Daily Report legal newspaper in Atlanta singled out Radford as one of “four to watch” in the state among junior law professors. She has been listed as one of “Georgia’s Top 50 Female Super Lawyers” by Atlanta Magazine and one of the “Top 100 Lawyers” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. In 2002, she was awarded the Treat Award for Excellence by the National College of Probate Judges.
Radford is an academic fellow and vice president of the American College of Trust & Estate Counsel. Before joining the College of Law in 1984, she practiced as an associate attorney at the Atlanta firm of Hansell & Post (now Jones Day), where she practiced for three years.
But it really all began as a high school French and English teacher.
“I taught high school at St. Joseph’s, where the [downtown Atlanta] Hilton stands today,” said Radford. “I have spent most of my career as a teacher in downtown Atlanta.”