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2008 Business Leader of the Year - Gerald Edenfield
012209 2008 BIZ LEADER 1
Gerald Edenfield casts a large shadow as he says a few words after being honored as the 2008 Business Leader of the Year at the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting Thursday at the Nessmith-Lane Continuing Education Building on the campus of Georgia Southern University. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    The Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce 2008 Business Leader of the Year is a practical joker who also practices law. And, Gerald Edenfield was sworn in last June as  the president of the State Bar of Georgia.
    Edenfield had other business Thursday night and it took some persuading by friends and family to entice him to attend the Chamber’s 87th Annual meeting at the Georgia Southern University’s Nessmith Lane Building.  The honor is usually unfurled in a surprise announcement during the meeting, and Edenfield’s long time friend, Statesboro automobile dealer Frank Rozier, had family tell Edenfield it was he who was receiving an award — “something about cars”.
    After taking the podium, Edenfield jokingly told the crowd he knew something was up about that because he knew Rozier “hadn’t sold a car in a year.”
    Rozier, who was named Business Leader of the Year in 2004,  led up to the announcement by revealing bits and pieces of Edenfield’s history. “The 2009 Business Leader of  the Year must be known for his integrity ... leadership ... “ and other assets, he said. “Our honoree certainly meets all these qualifications.”
    He listed many of Edenfield’s accomplishments, including being a Deen Day Smith Service to Mankind Founder who also received the organization’s founder’s day award; and membership and honors in the Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers; fellow, American Bar Association, American Judicature Society; American Trial Lawyers Association, American Board of Trial Advocates; , Ogeechee Bar Association.
     Edenfield, received his  bachelors of arts at the University of Georgia, 1963-1968; and his juris doctor at Mercer University Law School, 1967-1970.
    The managing partner of Edenfield, Cox, Bruce & Classens, was admitted to the Georgia Bar in 1970 after previously serving as secretary of the State Bar, as well as on its legislative committee and board of governors.
      He is also a member of the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers.  In 2005 he was recognized by Atlanta Magazine as the Georgia “Super Lawyer” in litigation.
     And, by being named the  president of the State Bar of Georgia, Edenfield “ reached  the pinnacle of his profession,” Rozier said.
    After sharing a couple practical jokes the good-natured attorney has played on others, Rozier welcomed him as “the unofficial mayor of Stilson, Georgia ... the one person I know who has a whang doodle in his office ... my college roommate and my friend, Gerald Edenfield.”
    “This is unbelievable,” Edenfield as he took the stand. “I am truly humbled. This is  the epitome of what a person in Bulloch County can aspire to be. To be listed ... is unbelievable.”
    Edenfield said he respected Bulloch County and its citizens, and said in his travels, has met people who show a genuine interest in Statesboro and mentioned people they knew from Statesboro and Bulloch County.
    He said people, including two appellate judges, have asked how Statesboro and Bulloch County continue to prosper in spite of “the rest of the country is still in a funk.”
    Edenfield attributed the progress to the area’s “good people and great leaders ... who helped put our community on the map.”
    Edenfield, who operates a large farm in Stilson, has been married to wife Sharon Carter Edenfield  for 39 years.  They have three children - Sharri Edenfield, who joined her father’s firm in Statesboro several months ago after practicing in Atlanta for several years; and daughter Kristie Edenfield, who practices with the Savannah firm of Hunter, MacLean, Exley & Dunn.
    Their son Gerry Edenfield is a senior at the University of Georgia and is considering a career in law.
    “I am grateful for this award, and for each of you” he told the crowd at the meeting. He gave credit to his partners and family, especially his wife who he said retied from teaching to travel with his for his duties as president of the State Bar of Georgia.
    “I thank you for this honor. I know of no greater honor I could ever receive, and I thank you so much.
    The Statesboro-Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce also conducted other business during the meeting, including naming Dr. Ron Shiffler as its 2009 Chairman.
    Steve Rushing, 2008 chairman, welcomed the crowd and showed a short video promoting Bulloch County and Statesboro’s economical status. Several Chamber members dressed in motorcycle leathers to perform the skit, which played upon the theme and popular song “ Riding the Storm out.”
    The Statesboro -Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce conducted a record 74 ribbon cuttings and ground breaking ceremonies in 2008, he said.

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