Georgia Bar Journal
GSB Vol. 14, NO. 1, Pg. 44.
New President is a Georgia Lawyerby Choice
GSB JournalVol. 14, NO. 1August 2008New President is a Georgia Lawyerby ChoiceLinton JohnsonAugust 1974 was an extraordinary time to go to work on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The Watergate scandal took down a presidency. An unpopular, decade-long war was winding down toward a painful conclusion. Americans were wondering whether they could ever trust their government again. When Gerald Ford was sworn in as president and declared, "Our long national nightmare is over," Jeff Bramlett, then a newly-minted intern for Texas Congressman Bob Eckhardt, felt he was standing at a major intersection of American history, government and the rule of law.
After graduating high school in Houston, Texas, Bramlett gravitated to the University of Maryland, where Sen. Eugene McCarthy was teaching poetry and former high officials of the Nixon and Johnson Administrations were teaching government and politics. "Poetry and politics; that seemed to me like the right preparation for an aspiring law student," Bramlett recalls.
"I went to work on the Hill the week Richard Nixon resigned," he notes. As his internship developed into a legislative staff position, Bramlett put off law school for three years. He recalls living an extended civics lesson as he observed the power struggles between the overwhelming Democratic majority in the 94th Congress, the Ford Administration's frequent use of the veto power to shape public policy and the Burger Court in the 1974-77 terms.
"Bob Eckhardt was perhaps the best-respected legal mind in a House full of `Greatest Generation' lawyers in those days," Bramlett says. "The opportunity to observe first-hand how Bob went about analyzing problems and devising solutions with civility in a raucus and partisan time was an education of immense value to me." Bramlett's admiration for the legal skills of Eckhardt and the many other lawyers he worked with as a legislative staffer soon made the path to law school irresistible.
Tuition at the University of Texas (UT) Law School in 1977 was $50 per semester. Eckhardt, a UT law graduate, advised Bramlett it would be "damn foolishness" to go anywhere else. So Bramlett headed for Austin.
A law degree was not Bramlett's only reward from his time in Austin. A fellow Texas Law Review member, Nancy Frakes Price, became his wife. Nancy practiced corporate and securities law until their fourth child arrived in 1990. Their "merger" has endured...