Darton State College Alumni & Friends |
Phil Cannon, Attorney
Above The Bar
Humble is the word that most comes to mind when talking to Phil Cannon. Born in Valdosta and raised in Cairo, Georgia, he possesses many of the traits that define a southern gentleman - honesty, a dedication to civic responsibility, small town ideals, and what he feels is a moral obligation to leave the world a little better off then when he entered it. With that said, it is also important to note that he does not acknowledge the successes of his life without also acknowledging his failures, something that seems to be difficult for most people to do at all, yet he is able to garnish what wisdom he can from those life lessons and apply it like a philosopher who recognizes and accepts his place in this world.
After graduating from Cairo High School, he briefly studied at Auburn before returning to Albany and Darton College, saying that "in 1988, it was the best local education option at my disposal." What he found among the faculty came as a complete surprise to him. "I had come from Auburn and when I got to Darton I did not expect the caliber of teachers that were there. The teachers at Darton were more qualified than the engineering teachers at Auburn."
He looks back on those days early in his college career and compares Darton then to the campus now and can't believe how much has been accomplished in such a short span of time. "Darton stands out above any college within 150 miles. It has a better looking campus, offers more, and has growth potential with where it seems to be going. From what I've seen, Darton has a future that other colleges don't seem to have." That future is one that he hopes will bring more medical careers, and possibly a medical school to Darton. "Albany is becoming a very medically-oriented community. People are leaving the bigger cities in North Georgia and moving to smaller close-knit communities. With that they'll need quality medical care, and Albany already has one of the best cancer centers and cardiovascular centers in the state. It's only logical that Darton continues to meet the needs of the medical community."
His educational journey took several turns before he settled on law - first thoughts were to become a CPA or an engineer, but his interest in the law never diminished. "I had every intention of being a CPA, but I had a grandfather who was a Justice of the Peace and that was something that always interested me, so I changed my major from engineering to law. That and because I had a cousin who said I couldn't do it!" Luckily he had an understanding father who supported him in yet another change of major.
Phil stayed in law school, graduating from Campbell University in North Carolina in 1992, at which time he moved back to Albany and began working for Brimberry, Kaplan, & Brimberry, staying with them until 1997. At that time, he went into partnership with Billy Mathis, a local attorney specializing in personal injury, workers compensation, medical malpractice, product liability, and wrongful death cases, and stayed with him until 1999. Yet Phil always had the dream of having his own practice, so in 1999 an opportunity presented itself that he could not pass up when the building that now houses his practice came on the market. He decided to make a bold move and purchased the building in the heart of downtown Albany, and the rest is history.
Beginning his own practice is a move he has never regretted, saying, "It has provided me with the ability to provide for my children and ex-wife at a level that they are accustomed to. Any other profession would not have allowed me to provide as well for my family." Good to know, especially as he foresees another seventeen years of practicing law in his future. With four children ranging in age from nineteen to five, he knows he has a while to go. He does admit, however, that he has at times questioned- as most people do - whether he made the right choice in becoming an attorney, but is quick to add that he's had three "AHA" moments in his career that left little room for doubt that he had made the right decision. "When I was about 35 years old, I became the youngest lawyer in Georgia to have sat as lead council on three death row penalty cases. I've never had anyone on death row. When the verdicts came back for life instead of death on all three, I knew I had saved someone's life."
Beyond the law and his children, his main passion during the last several years has been the revitalization of downtown Albany, and he considers his role on several boards associated with those efforts a vital part of his life and one that may someday lead to a second career in public office. "I have considered, do consider, and will continue to consider running for public office, and I still want to be involved in downtown Albany development. At first, it was because I bought the building, but then I realized that if we don't protect the center of Albany, the inside crumbles and it starts branching out. We've already cleaned it up, so if the center is vibrant then it's healthy and everyone benefits."
His vision for Albany is one that he remains dedicated to and committed to seeing succeed. "I'd like for Albany to be a community not divided by racial lines, where we all work together to make a better future for our children."
For the last several years Phil has been dedicated to leaving a legacy that represents who he is and what's important to him. As he looks out the window and gazes over downtown he smiles like a man who knows he's making a difference in his community. Still, the role he sees for himself remains a simple and humble one. "I'd like for people to say that he was a good man who cared about his community and fellow human beings."
That's something that even the best of us should aspire to be.
Downtown Merchants Association, Chairman Albany Dougherty Inner City Authority, Secretary Chamber of Commerce, Board Member Albany Convention & Visitors Bureau, Board Member Thronateeska Heritage Museum, Board Member