Reluctant Hero

Before Richard Deane came along, the Macon school system was segregated and pimps were thriving in Atlanta

Published in 2004 Georgia Super Lawyers magazine

By Judd Spicer on February 21, 2004


What’s a federal prosecuting attorney doing on Time magazine’s list of 100 Innovators? There, among scientists and inventors and other of America’s most creative people, is Jones Day attorney Richard Deane. He’s there for his groundbreaking efforts toward sizing up some of Atlanta’s seediest element.
Pimps, to be exact. But not just your boa-and-cape “Willie Dynamite” types.These bottom-dwellers prey on children, some as young as 10.They transport girls over state lines.They create training videos to better instruct both their prey and the filthy brethren with which they were organized. And for this, Deane would see that they pay.
By applying RICO (the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) laws to the scenario, because the pimps worked together in an organized way to forgo the law, U.S. Attorney Deane brought together multiple layers of government and law to ring up 226 federal charges against the likes of “Worm,” “Hollywood” and “Pimp Redd.” Deane’s creative use of RICO accounted for 14 arrests, which stand as the first time in our country’s history that pimping has been met with this statute typically used to combat organized crime. Hence, the “Innovator” label, and the Time coverage, and oh yeah, the moody, concrete photo depicting Deane in full-on fedora and trench coat. “Just a bald man on a cold night,” laughs Deane, downplaying the shot.
Cool, confident, creative and clever, Deane, in his second year with Jones Day’s Atlanta office, has quietly conducted his colossal career with all the hoopla of a “Night Court” re-run. Most people with a résumé that includes titles such as “U.S. Attorney,” “U.S. magistrate judge” and “Attorney General’s Advisory Committee member” can be found cannonballing their way around legal pools.Yet, as the wise man once said, it is those still waters that run so very deep.
“You’ll never hear him crow about his accomplishments. He just does it. … And in his own kind of quiet way, he goes out and helps resolve difficult issues,” says Jones Day Atlanta partner-incharge George T. Manning, who was asked by his firm to gauge Deane’s interest in joining its team nearly four years ago. Deane later joined Jones Day after leaving his U.S.Attorney position in January of 2002.

“He’s a package of great judgment, coupled with both great integrity and great skills,” Manning continues, in regard to what sets Deane apart from the pack. “He’s not afraid to try a case. He has a reputation of respect that comes with him being fair. So he is able to broker deals, broker settlements and help our clients in ways that many other lawyers could not.”
The statement exemplifies the type of person Deane is: a lawyer once labeled a “reluctant hero,” a man born of humble, rural roots, and a boy raised by a grandmother who instilled a sense in him that anything is possible.
“When I was a kid, she would tell me that there was nothing I couldn’t do,” Deane remembers. “She always made sure I understood that the rural surroundings should not, and were not, a limitation upon the way I should look at things. 
“She’s the best person I’ve ever known,” Deane continues. “She wasn’t a very highly educated person, and didn’t have a high school education, really. But she was wise beyond anything I’ve ever encountered since.’’
High praise from a man who went on to be a presidential appointee, and then later to advise an attorney general.
And this, sans the proud mention of his own family, is likely the most emotion, the largest rise with which one can hear Deane speak. He won’t bark about how he helped integrate the Macon school system, or brag on how he was one of only six African Americans to enroll in the University of Georgia’s law school in 1974.
“I just try to work hard and do a good job,” Deane says in his understated way. “Whatever results from that is fine.”
In a world where the highest decibels want wield of the loudest word, it is this kind of refreshing, quiet certitude that is the strongest voice of all.

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