Kelly Miles and Jonathan Tuggle grew up on the same street in Dalton.
Only one house separated theirs.
Even though they were neighbors and their families were friends, Miles and Tuggle barely knew each other. That’s because Miles is 13 years older than Tuggle.
But as adults, their paths have crossed in an unusual way. They’ve both served as chair of the State Bar of Georgia’s Family Law Section, one after the other. Miles passed the title to Tuggle earlier this year.
“It’s ironic. Out of all the family law attorneys — close to 2,000 of them — only one is the chair,” said Miles, a partner with the Gainesville law firm Smith, Gilliam, Williams & Miles. “For one of us to be chair and to pass the gavel to another as chair is just unheard of. It’s an honor itself to be chair, but to pass the gavel on to Jonathan was extremely special.”
The two say they are proud to tell people they are Daltonians who grew up on the same street.
“How many people can say that?” asked Tuggle, a founding partner of Atlanta-based Boyd, Collar, Nolen & Tuggle. “Georgia is a big state. Metro Atlanta is a big area. It just so happens the outgoing chair and the chair are from the same hometown, grew up on the same street. That’s a unique fact. We’re definitely proud of Dalton. It’s a great place to grow up. We both have great memories of Dalton. We like to promote that anytime we can.”
The chair is in charge of many duties designed to promote family law, including organizing continuing education programs, being in charge of meetings and overseeing several committees. Family law includes divorces, adoptions, custody and domestic violence cases.
Joseph Tuggle’s influence
The two accomplished attorneys share an influence in the legal world — Joseph Tuggle, Jonathan Tuggle’s father, who practiced family law in Dalton. He also served as the chair of the State Bar of Georgia’s Family Law Section for the 1996-1997 term. A professional state award is named for him within the organization as well. It is given to one attorney each year who exhibits the most professionalism and ethical conduct. He died in 1999. Jonathan Tuggle’s mother, Sue, still lives in Dalton.
“I knew his father, a very well-respected attorney,” said Miles, 54, a 1977 graduate of Dalton High School. “I knew him growing up. My parents (Erle and Kay Miles) would talk about what a good attorney he was, but they never had to use him. They’ve been married 55 years. As I started practicing family law I would go see Joe.”
Miles received her bachelor’s degree in political science and history from Mercy University where she also received her law degree.
“Having known Jonathan’s father better than I knew Jonathan, I can tell you his father would be so proud of him,” she said. “To see how much they thought of Jonathan’s father ... the Joseph Tuggle Award. That will tell you how much the state bar thought of Jonathan’s father, and they think just as highly of Jonathan. He’s very well-respected and very well-liked.”
Jonathan Tuggle, 41, a 1991 graduate of Dalton High School, didn’t initially plan to follow in his father’s footsteps, especially so closely. When he graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s in business administration, marketing, he wasn’t sure where to go next.
“Dad said, ‘There’s no better education than to get a (juris doctor degree). You don’t have to practice if you don’t want to, but it’s a great education and great training,’” Tuggle said. “Once I got there, I realized litigation and practicing was something I did want to do. The question was what was going to be my area of practice.”
Jonathan Tuggle graduated from Mercer University’s Walter F. Georgia School of Law in 1998.
“Family law was the one area I had never really planned to follow,” he said. “I had no interest in it. I started out doing commercial litigation and real estate litigation. I did some zoning and land use work. It wasn’t interesting to me. It was not as interesting as I would have liked.”
Since Joseph Tuggle died the year after his son completed his law degree, the two never worked together professionally. But Jonathan Tuggle ran into some attorneys who had known his father and worked in family law.
“I liked these guys,” he said. “They had a great practice. I’ll just give it a shot. Whether it’s in my blood or what, I was drawn to it and love it. It was never the plan. It just sort of happened that I ended up in the same area.”