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Wallace Wright garners Georgia legal profession’s community service award
With a little help from a Goldendoodle named Tyler
Photo Frank Fortune/Candler County Community Magazine Retired attorney Wallace Wright reads to children with his certified therapy dog Tyler at park a in Metter.
Retired attorney Wallace Wright reads to children with his certified therapy dog Tyler at a park in Metter. (Photo Frank Fortune/Candler County Community Magazine)

Metter resident and retired attorney Wallace H. Wright recently won the Georgia legal profession’s 23rd Annual Justice Robert Benham Award for Community Service for Judicial District 8 with a little help from a Goldendoodle therapy dog named Tyler.

Benham served more than 30 years as a justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia before retiring in March 2020. The honor named for him is awarded to Georgia attorneys and judges who make significant contributions to their community beyond their work in the legal profession. The Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism oversees the awards, and nominees must be members in good standing of the State Bar of Georgia. Anyone can submit a nomination, but two letters of support attesting to the nominee’s community service work are also required.

After graduating from Emory University in 1963, Wright attained his law degree from Mercer University School of Law in 1970 and then worked with two other law firms before establishing his own firm. From 1984 until his retirement in 2008, he was the senior partner of the Metter-based law firm Wallace H. Wright, Attorney, P.C., now known as Wright & Edwards, P.C.

“When Wallace retired in 2008, we really were not sure how he would handle retirement life. We expected him to be in the office every day,” said Rachel C. Edwards, one of Wright’s former law partners and endorsers for the award.

But to everyone’s surprise, she said, Wright flourished in retirement by increasing his already substantial, long-established volunteerism in his community.

Pictured, left to right, Judge Lovett Bennett, Jr., Superior Court Judge of Ogeechee Judicial Circuit; Missy Bennett; Wallace Wright's son Bill Wright; wife Nancy Wright; Charlie Cox and Susan Cox, colleague and former member of Georgia Bar Association Bo
Pictured, left to right, Judge Lovett Bennett, Jr., Superior Court Judge of Ogeechee Judicial Circuit; Missy Bennett; Wallace Wright's son Bill Wright; wife Nancy Wright; Charlie Cox and Susan Cox, colleague and former member of Georgia Bar Association Board of Governors; Wallace Wright, award recipient, retired attorney; Wright & Edwards; Rachel Edwards, former law partner and attorney, Wright & Edwards; friend Robert Tanner; John Edwards, former law partner and attorney, Wright & Edwards.

Wright got a Goldendoodle puppy named Tyler. Both Wallace and Tyler enrolled in obedience school, and Tyler became a certified therapy dog while Wright a certified handler. Now, Wright and Tyler can be found visiting local schools, hospitals and retirement homes in Candler County.

“His way of bringing young children out of their shells, by way of the lovable and huggable Tyler, is absolutely remarkable,” said Judge Lovett Bennett Jr.

Bennett, a longtime Statesboro lawyer who is now one of four Superior Court judges in the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit, nominated Wright for the award with support from other endorsers.


Tyler doesn’t judge

Edwards observed that children who barely speak in school love reading to Wright’s therapy dog, knowing that Tyler will never judge them for stumbling over their words or mispronouncing them.

Tyler sets the children at ease while Wright sits quietly by, giving each child the opportunity to have his or her turn spending time with Tyler.

In addition, to their work in schools, Wright and Tyler are well known at local retirement homes. Residents enjoy loving on Tyler while Wright tells stories about the residents or their loved ones from his encounters with them over the years, Edwards said.

In an interview published in Candler County Magazine in October 2021, Wright was asked what he hoped he and Tyler could accomplish.

“I hope they get kind of a sense of calmness. …,” Wright said. “That’s what therapy does – relieves pain, suffering, anxiety.”


Mentoring a child

His work with Tyler the therapy dog is the recent focus of Wright’s volunteerism, but this post-retirement project is neither the beginning nor the extent of his community service work. Nor has his service been limited to Metter and Candler County, since his legal career also ranged across county lines and judicial circuit boundaries.

In Candler County he is member of the board of directors for the Communities in Schools program and was designated Member of the Year in 2020.

“Candler County is a small, rural county with a median household income just under $37,000,” Edwards wrote. “As a volunteer in the schools, Wallace quickly learned how many children do without.”

After assuming a mentorship role for one “elementary school student whose home life was less than ideal,” Wright “spent countless hours over the years taking the child to medical appointments, school shopping, even out for ice cream to celebrate academic achievements,” his former law partner said.

“Any time anything involving the child went on, Wallace was there,” she wrote.


That’s not all

In a January story announcing his selection for the award prior to its March presentation, the Metter Advertiser recounted some of his other community service activities through the years.

These included support of school sports, from being a Little League coach to president of the Statesboro High School Booster Club from 1980 to 1988, teaching tax accounting and lecturing in business school classes at Georgia Southern University and participating in “A Day for Southern,” the annual fundraising event for the university. He was active in the organization and operation of Joseph’s Home for Boys from 1985 to 2000.

Wright has also volunteered with Ogeechee Area Hospice, by assisting in its formation, participating in a capital fund drive, providing pro bono legal services and serving on the board of directors from 1994 to 2005.

Wright is a charter member of Forest Heights Country Club and a member of the Metter Rotary Club. He maintains membership in the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce as well as the Metter-Candler Chamber of Commerce, where he was named the 2017 Member of the Year.

Wallace Wright and his wife, Nancy, have twin sons, Bill and Jim, and three grandchildren. The Wrights also have two rescue dogs in addition to Tyler the Goldendoodle therapy dog, the Metter Advertiser reported.


Peer recognition

Senior Judge John R. “Robbie” Turner called Wright, “an emissary and an example for those of us who worked for years in the local and state bar.”

Wright was one of eight legal professionals from various judicial districts of the state who received the awards March 2 during the 23rd Annual Justice Robert Benham Community Service Awards Ceremony at the Nathan Deal Judicial Center.

The group that traveled to Atlanta to see Wright receive the award included Judge Bennett and his wife, Missy Bennett, Rachel Edwards, John Edwards, who is also a former law partner of Wright, Charlie Cox and Susan Cox, who is a colleague and former Georgia Bar Association board member, Robert Tanner, friend from Robert Tanner Realty, and Wright’s wife Nancy and son Bill.

“Law is not a business; it is a profession,” Wright said in accepting the award. “Even when we're not in the office or the courthouse, we are still that lawyer that everyone knows."


Selby Cody-Voss, a staff writer for the Metter Advertiser, contributed to this story.


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