It is with deep sorrow that we announce the passing of George Leon Cohen on February 9, 2021. George, 90, was a devoted family man who also led a distinguished legal career.
George Leon Cohen was born June 20, 1930 at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, GA to Callie Harrison Cohen and Leon (Big Hap) Cohen of Covington, Georgia. Growing up in the small town of Covington, George spent his childhood working in the family clothing store, known to locals as Cohen’s. George graduated from Covington High School in 1947 as valedictorian of his class.
After high school, George attended the Virginia Military Institute where he graduated first in his class in 1951. VMI figured prominently in George’s life as he continued to attend VMI reunions with his brother rats well into his 80s. George married Jacqueline (Jackie) Edwards, a Virginia native who attended nearby Mary Baldwin College, in 1951. After a brief tour in the Air Force, George enrolled in the University of Virginia Law School, where he graduated first in his class in 1955.
Following graduation from law school, George, Jackie, and their newborn son, George (Hap) Leon Cohen, Jr. moved from Virginia back to Georgia where George began his law practice with Sutherland Asbill and Brennan. (now Eversheds Sutherland) as an associate, where he remained until his retirement in 2017 as a senior partner. George and Jackie welcomed their second son, Gardner Edwards, who was born in Atlanta in 1958.
During a law career that spanned 7 decades, George contributed significantly to both firm and industry leadership roles. George led Sutherland’s Corporate Practice Group for many years and served on the firm’s Executive Committee and as Executive Partner. As a young lawyer, his expertise and leadership were frequently sought outside the firm.
In 1968 and 1969, he chaired the Georgia State Bar’s Section of Corporation and Banking Law, and sat on the Section’s committee that undertook the complete revision of Georgia’s corporation laws in the late 1960’s. He was instrumental in drafting the Georgia Business Corporation Code that was adopted in 1969, revisiting it two decades later in 1989 when he chaired the committee responsible for the code’s comprehensive revision.
George’s influence in the legal world was felt well beyond the state of Georgia. From 1983-1989 George served as a member of the Business Law Section of the American Bar Association’s Corporate Laws Committee that drafted the Revised Model Business Corporation Act. And from 1981-1992, he advised the American Law Institute’s project, “Principles of Corporate Governance: Analysis and Recommendations.”
In November 2004, George married Martha (Marty) Daniels, longtime Hilton Head neighbor. The two split their time among Connecticut, New York, Atlanta, and Hilton Head visiting friends and family.
An avid lover of sailing and nature, he held a particular affection for birds, frequently sailing out to the sandbar off the beach on Hilton Head in search of his favorite shore bird, Black Skimmers.
Devoted to his intricate network of outside feeders and a skilled bird-caller, George began many mornings on Hilton Head by presenting a dish of wriggling mealworms to the local bluebirds, who had come to expect their hearty feast when he whistled to them from the porch.
A tireless and generous host, few things gave him more pleasure than entertaining his family and friends, particularly when it came to his passion for grilling his oft imitated, but never duplicated, cedar plank salmon. George also enjoyed preparing BBQ favorites, Brunswick stew and pulled pork, and was always experimenting with different sauces of varying spiciness.
George died peacefully in his sleep near his beloved home of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, which long served as a relaxing retreat and his fulltime home in retirement.
Predeceased by his first wife, Jacqueline Edwards Cohen in 2001, his younger son, Gardner Edwards Cohen in 2007, brother Philip Cohen in 2003, and nephew Lee Cohen in 2007. George is survived by his wife Martha Daniels Cohen, his eldest son George L. (Hap) Cohen Jr. and wife Shuli Fu Cohen, stepchildren, Tim Daniels and wife Claire von Schilling and Doug Daniels, grandchildren Richard Cohen and wife Nicole, Michael Cohen and wife Leah, and Wyatt Daniels, great-grandchildren, Leighton Cohen, Delaney Cohen, and Gray Cohen, nephew, Phil Cohen and his fiancée Linda, and son-in-law Joe Leung and husband Drew Stamps.
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