One in a Hundred
A life lived outdoors has prompted Savannah’s Glen Darbyshire to help protect Georgia’s coast
Published in 2021 Georgia Super Lawyers magazine
on February 12, 2021
Updated on February 18, 2021
Glen Darbyshire’s favorite mile of the Georgia Coast is the one that, until recently, he could see from the windows of his Savannah home: a ribbon of undeveloped shoreline between the south end of Wassaw Island and the north end of Ossabaw Island, where the Vernon River empties into the Atlantic. The salt marshes, dunes and mud flats are part of a diverse ecosystem that runs along Georgia’s 15 barrier islands, strung like jewels in a saltwater necklace on the state’s 100-plus miles of coast.
Some of the islands are developed, others protected. “I could look straight out and see Wassaw Island, seven miles of beach [with] one house,” Darbyshire says. “Our children had this wonderful experience of growing up looking straight out at undeveloped marsh, on island after island, preserved.” A neighbor—a retired sailor who lived to be over 90—taught the neighborhood kids to sail. “It was called Rinky-Dink Sailing Club and he was like the Pied Piper,” Darbyshire says.
That stretch of shore also inspires the name of an environmental organization: One Hundred Miles, a nonprofit that works on core issues of preserving wetlands and protecting water and wildlife, along with addressing land use and climate change. Darbyshire, an attorney with Bouhan Falligant, was asked to join One Hundred Miles’ nine-member board after attending a gathering on Little St. Simons Island.
One Hundred Miles caught his attention with its pitch that “there are ways, consistent with sound environmental policies, to develop good businesses that bring jobs and growth to areas with reasonable land use restrictions,” he says. That appealed to him, as did the organization’s game plan of bringing together various environmental groups to collaborate on big issues.
“They’re all relatively young,” he says of the One Hundred Miles staff. “They’re as enthusiastic as they can be about the work, and it’s just been a lot of fun to serve on the board and help them raise money.” Although the organization has been the named plaintiff in a number of lawsuits seeking to protect the coast, it is represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center as well as other volunteer attorneys. “We typically don’t fund lawsuits,” Darbyshire says, because One Hundred Miles is a small organization. But he does help staff track litigation when needed.
It’s a natural fit for Darbyshire, who had, he says, “an almost a Mayberry R.F.D. childhood” in Southwest Georgia, accompanying his father, a large-animal veterinarian, on calls to farms around the county. His father had grown up canoeing the Flint River, and Darbyshire followed in his wake.
“We took the same canoes, even, and went down the Flint, Ochlockonee and Withlacoochee rivers all the way down to the Suwannee River,” he recalls. “Did that often.” His family also spent holidays in the North Carolina mountains. “It was a good life, mostly outdoors: hunting, fishing and these river trips,” he says. “It does instill a desire to be outside—a sort of inquisitiveness or awe of things outside your home.”
Darbyshire’s outdoor adventures continued when, after graduating from Davidson College and spending a year teaching school in rural Kenya, he hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Virginia—about a quarter of it altogether. He did about 18 miles a day for 28 days, and met a variety of through-hikers. “You’d meet somebody and walk for a day with them,” he says. He’ll never forget his last day on the trail: With a full moon lighting the path, he walked through the night, hiking 35 miles straight.
Law school at the University of Georgia was followed by clerkships with civil rights giants Judge Frank Johnson, Circuit Judge for the 11th Circuit, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. After a short stay in Atlanta, Darbyshire and his wife Connie settled in her native Savannah to raise their kids on the Vernon River.
Though he and Connie recently moved closer into town, Darbyshire still feels a sense of ownership about his special mile of shore. He says every Georgian owns a solid hundred miles.
“The marsh that you see, driving from Florida to South Carolina, we all own that,” he says. “Every Georgia citizen owns that view and all those resources that are in it. We should cherish that.”
On Frank and Thurgood
“They were probably the two best raconteurs in the federal judiciary. Frank Johnson was from north Alabama, and his stories were about farmers, mules and moonshine stills. Thurgood Marshall’s raucous tales were about Joe Louis, Duke Ellington and Harlem. They would set up a story and let it go for a couple of days before it got to the punchline. They had that ability to lead you on in a story and let it stew.” —Glen Darbyshire
On a Walk in the Woods
“First lesson I got about hiking the Appalachian Trail: weight is everything. The approach trail from the parking lot at Amicalola Falls to the top of Springer Mountain—where the Appalachian Trail actually starts—is about 8 miles long, and that approach is unexpectedly tough: up and down, up and up. Memorably steep. Except for a sleeping bag, I think I could have outfitted everything I needed from gear tossed out of packs by other hikers.” —Glen Darbyshire