The late Bill Hairston, Jr., a beloved lawyer and former bar president, often described a professional as “one who puts in more than they take out.” Keith Norman is such a person. I become aware of him while he was working at one of the state’s historic law firms known for service to the public and the profession. He had a serious sense of import for bar projects that he engaged in as a young lawyer.
I had advised the bar leadership of my intent to retire as secretary of the state bar in 1994. The Board of Commissioners authorized the creation of an assistant director position to enhance the transition to a new director. It was stipulated that this position would not be one of automatic succession. Keith was the five-star recruit I felt would be an ideal candidate to fill the position.
Keith was a proven volunteer with a range of experience that I felt could serve him and the bar well. While a law student, he worked in continuing education and law reform. He had clerked for a visionary Alabama Supreme Court Justice in Montgomery and had experience in the workings of the state government bureaucracy. Keith also had private practice experience and a network of legal friends, begun as a Key Club member in high school. Primarily, he loved the law and legal profession.
I unveiled my plans for Keith’s career change over a long lunch shortly before his marriage to Teresa. He expressed interest, but we agreed to talk after the wedding. Obviously, Keith accepted the offer and was my associate director until September 1994, when he succeeded me. The late Bill Scruggs had previously chaired a search committee that conducted a national search. After interviewing a number of qualified candidates, the committee determined the best qualified candidate was already on board.
The profession has undergone many demanding changes in the 23 years Keith has served the bar as the executive director. Now, as then, I cannot think of a better person to lead our great state bar and the finest staff in the county. I am proud to claim Keith as part of my bar legacy.
—Reginald T. Hamner, Alabama State Bar Executive Director, (1969-1994)
Upon completion of his work with Justice Maddox, Keith joined the law firm of Balch & Bingham as an attorney in its Montgomery office. To say that he had a diverse practice is an understatement. As the newest lawyer in the office, and later because he was so willing to pitch in and was so reliable, he was asked to perform a variety of work–from litigating complex commercial cases to enforcing an easement, from litigating product liability cases (e.g., above-ground swimming pool ladder) to trying divorce cases, from working on supreme court briefs to defending a client in a commitment hearing. His diverse practice served him well when he transitioned to the state bar. There just was not much regarding the practice of law that he had not seen, and he used his broad experience to serve all members of the bar.
While he was working with us at Balch & Bingham, Keith was introduced to Teresa Miller, who later became his wife. Keith’s and Teresa’s first date was to the South Alabama State Fair, probably because as a member of the Montgomery Kiwanis Club, which sponsored the fair, Keith was admitted free. Keith and Teresa hit it off, and they raised four wonderful and successful children.
—Pete Cobb and Joe McCorkle, Balch & Bingham, Montgomery
I’ve been proud to call Keith a friend since law school. He’s been an outstanding executive director–always professional and always a friend to lawyers. He’s ready to answer any question and provide direction regardless of the issue.
And, Keith’s been a true “friend of the court.” The Alabama Supreme Court has had a great relationship with the state bar throughout Keith’s leadership. We’ve worked through rules changes, promoted professionalism and modified bar admission criteria and bar examination requirements. One of the greatest accomplishments during his service has been an emphasis on “lawyers helping lawyers.” He leaves a great legacy.
—Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Lyn Stuart
Keith Norman and I grew up together in Opelika. We graduated from high school there in May 1974, and then we headed off to different colleges. We got together again when we both entered the University of Alabama Law School in 1978, and took the bar exam in 1981.
Even though I eventually settled into practice in Georgia, Keith and I have always stayed in touch, getting together periodically with several of our Opelika High School friends and renewing our friendships.
Keith has always been a great advocate for any group or organization with which he was involved. We are all aware of the great job he has done as the executive director of the Alabama State Bar these many years, but in high school he was the biggest fan of and the local radio announcer for the Opelika High School basketball team.
I’m confident that Keith will not really retire. I’m sure that he will find another passion to advocate on behalf of and make a difference just as he has done for the Alabama State Bar and the legal profession these many past years.
Keith, please continue to stay in touch. My best to you and your family and I look forward to learning about your next endeavor.
—Steve Avera, Thomasville, Georgia
Keith Norman has been my friend and confidant since his law school days. Beginning as a Law Institute student law clerk, staying on with ALI a year after graduation as an assistant, then throughout his tenure as lawyer and bar executive, Keith has given great advice to me and the Institute. Keith has made not only me but also Alabama and the state bar better. The success of the Alabama Law Institute is due to the bar’s effectiveness assisting state government. This support is due in great part to the insight and personal assistance of Keith Norman, who...