Savannah native Tom Mahoney Jr. wore many hats in his long and distinguished legal career, but none was more important to him than his role as a family man.
“I think, of everything he accomplished, Dad was most proud of his family,” said his eldest son, Tom. “He seized any opportunity to talk about his children and grandchildren and, of course, our mother.
“He made sure we never played second fiddle to his career.”
Mahoney died Friday morning, surrounded by his family. He was 80.
The president and CEO of Mahoney & Cole PC, he graduated from Benedictine Military School in 1954 before attending the University of South Carolina for both undergraduate and law school.
He started his career as an FBI Special Agent, assigned to Washington, Chicago and Baltimore.
It was while he was in Chicago that the young Irishman met the love of his life.
The equally Irish Judy Varges worked in the bureau’s secretarial pool.
“He borrowed a friend’s convertible to take her out for pizza and that was it,” the younger Mahoney said Friday. “They were married in Chicago and were as in love this morning as they were in 1962.”
The couple had four children.
After nearly two years with the FBI, Mahoney returned to Savannah and joined the firm he would remain with until his death.
He specialized in business law, government, maritime law, real estate and customs. In addition to his private practice, he served stints as Chatham County attorney, city attorney for Tybee Island, judge for Tybee Island and assistant city attorney for Savannah.
He had been special assistant attorney general for the Georgia Ports Authority since 1987 and had served in the same role for the Georgia Department of Transportation since 1999.
“It’s a very sad day for the Georgia Ports,” said ports Executive Director Griff Lynch. “Tom was a great man who helped make GPA what it is today. He will be sorely missed.”
In addition to his Savannah practice, Mahoney was admitted to practice before the Georgia Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, the South Carolina Supreme Court and Court of Appeals; the U.S. Court of Appeals for both states and the U.S. Supreme Court.
He served as president of the Savannah Bar Association in 1987-1988.
“Tom Mahoney was the consummate professional, a true gentleman in his law practice and in his service to the community,” said Pat O’Connor, Savannah attorney and current president of the Georgia Bar Association.
“He was an outstanding leader in the legal community and a mentor who always had time for his younger counterparts. He was part and parcel of the fabric of Savannah. He cared deeply about his community as well as his clients.”
Mahoney was a member of St. James Parish, the St. James School Board, the Benedictine Board of Advisors and was a past Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus Council 5588.
He served as grand marshal of the 1995 Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade and was given the Catholic Diocese of Savannah’s Gartland Award for church and community service in 2013.
He was a past president of The Landings Association and the Savannah Golf Association; former campaign chairman for the March of Dimes and past Board Chairman of the Sertoma Club.
“To the very end, he loved helping people, loved his life,” the younger Mahoney said. “That’s why he never retired. He came home from Hospice over the long MLK Jr. holiday weekend and welcomed visits from countless friends and associates — it was an endless stream of people.”
And he was the consummate Irishman.
“At one point during that last weekend, he turned to my Mom, smiling and said ‘I’m so blessed, Judy. After all, how many people get to attend their own wake.’”
Fox and Weeks Funeral Directors is in charge of arrangements, which were incomplete Friday.