Published Sunday, November 25, 2012
By ALEX MCRAE
When John Herbert “Herb” Cranford Jr. was sworn in as a member of the State Bar of Georgia, he wasn’t sworn in by just anyone.
And the ceremony didn’t take place just anywhere.
The oath was administered on Nov. 1 by Herb’s father, John Herbert Cranford, the current chief judge of the State Court of Coweta. And the ceremony took place in Cranford Hall, a large assembly room in the Coweta County Justice Center named in honor of Herb’s grandfather, Clifford A. Cranford, who served as solicitor general of Coweta County from 1952-1984.
Herb Cranford realizes his father and grandfather left him more than just some large legal shoes to fill.
“I am privileged to follow my father and grandfather in the legal profession,” he said. “They have given me the benefit of their reputations, and I intend to live up to that.”
Cranford began working as an assistant district attorney with the Coweta Judicial Circuit after passing the Georgia bar exam in July. He is excited about beginning his career as a prosecutor in Carroll County and thankful for the opportunity to work so close to home.
“I’m privileged to have been hired by DA Pete Skandalakis and to be working in his Carroll County office,” Cranford said. “The help and encouragement I’ve received from everyone in the DA’s office over the last two years cannot be overstated.”
Considering his family history, it would be natural to assume Cranford never considered other career options. But he says that after graduating from Newnan High School in 2004 and heading to the University of Georgia, he wasn’t certain of his future plans.
While growing up, he spent hours at the Coweta County Courthouse watching his father try cases and enjoying the legal action almost as much as the family lunches at Lee-King Drugs on Newnan’s Court Square.
He says his father often spoke “business” around the family dinner table, but only about interesting matters the entire family could relate to.
“He didn’t bore us,” Cranford says. “He told us things that were relevant that we could relate to. He explained a lot of law to me over the years, but never tried to influence my career decision.”
When he entered UGA, Cranford planned to become a history major. “I have always been fascinated by world events and other cultures and really wanted to be involved with that,” he said.
After taking a course in world religions, Cranford realized that from an academic point of view, a religion major provided a chance to pursue advanced studies in all the things that interested him.
“I got a lot of history and philosophy and world culture, and I really enjoyed that,” Cranford said.
But he also realized he was not interested in the ministry and knew he had to choose another career. Many of his friends intended to study business or medicine. Cranford turned in a more familiar direction.
“I had always been interested in the law, but I guess I felt like I needed to look at other options,” he said. “But the more I thought about it, the more I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”
Cranford studied at Mercer Law School, as his father had. And he admits that first year courses in basics like contracts and torts left him less than enthusiastic.
“I wasn’t particularly interested in those aspects of the law,” he said. “But I liked working hard and always challenged myself to do better.”
After his first year of law school, a summer internship with Newnan’s Judge Homer Drake in U.S. Bankruptcy Court confirmed his feelings about certain legal specialties.
“It was interesting and Judge Drake was wonderful to work with,” he says, “but I’m just not a numbers guy.”
During his second year of law school, Cranford got to take some elective courses. He excelled in courses involving religious liberty and the First Amendment, but he loved the criminal law classes.
“I started to get excited,” he said.
Things got even better during the summer after his second year of law school, when Cranford worked at the Coweta County District Attorney’s office. Senior Assistant DA Ray Mayer and Assistant District Attorney Kevin McMurry were generous with their time and allowed Cranford to get deeply involved in cases they were working.
“Kevin McMurry really took me under his wing and so so did Pete (Skandalakis) and Ray (Mayer) and the whole DA’s staff,” Cranford said. “I can’t thank them enough for how supportive they were.”
He was even allowed to participate in two child molestation cases.
“Those cases were hard to take,” he says. “But it was good because it let me know I had the stomach for the work.”
After graduating from law school in May 2012, there was never any doubt about what area of law Cranford would pursue.
“I wanted to be a prosecutor,” he said. “There was no doubt about it. I enjoyed the work, and I liked working with the victims. It’s very satisfying.”
In October, Cranford finally tried his first case, a bench trial concerning burglaries at a local auto dealership. He won.
“It felt great,” Cranford said. “But I had lots of help from everyone.”
Cranford also has been on the losing legal team in his short tenure at the DA’s office, but says “that’s part of it. You do your best and work as hard as you can and if you don’t get the result you want, you make up your mind to work harder the next time.”
Cranford says he enjoys working with law enforcement officials during investigations of cases and was even invited to go along on a drug bust earlier this year.
“I really liked that,” he said. “It helped me develop a better feel for the whole process.”
Cranford knows many attorneys change career paths after a few years in the business, but says that right now he is only concerned with one thing.
“I have a special regard for the work of lawyers and especially prosecutors,” he said. “I’m going to dedicate myself to being the best prosecutor I can and what comes after that will take care of itself.”
Cranford feels especially blessed to be able to work so close to home. He doesn’t know how long he will be posted in Carroll County, but hopes that one day he will be working in the same building where his father presides over trials and his grandfather’s portrait hangs on the wall.
“I love it here and don’t plan on going anywhere else,” Cranford said. “I’m honored to serve my community as my father and grandfather have done before me and I endeavor to live up to the standard they have set.”