Skip to main content

Judge Joel Fryer Papers

Identifier: Mss 403

Scope and Contents

Researchers studying the Joel Fryer Papers will gain insight into the life of the first Jewish Superior Court Judge in the State of Georgia. Papers are arranged in alphabetical order by subject and chronological order within each file


  • Creation: 1914 - 2006

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on accessing material in this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

Biographical / Historical

Joel Fryer was born in Cleveland, Ohio on December 1, 1928. At the age of four, Judge Fryer moved to Atlanta with his parents, Jack and Phoebe Fryer. While growing up on Piedmont Avenue, Judge Fryer attended Tenth Street Elementary School and O'Keefe Junior High before attending and graduating from Boys' High School in 1946. As a young man growing up in Atlanta, Judge Fryer was active in AZA Chapter 134 of the B'nai Brith Youth Organization, he worked for National Linen Service during high school, and he was a member of the Buckhead Boys Club. After graduating high school, Judge Fryer enrolled in the University of Georgia. While in college residing in Athens, Georgia, Judge Fryer was an active member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity, and acted as President for a term. He also was invited and participated in several distinguished societies and fellowships including GridIron, Omicron Delta Kappa, and the Inter-Fraternity. Most importantly, while at UGA, Judge Fryer met, dated and later married his college sweetheart Jane Elkins of Baxley, Georgia. This past January, the Judge and Jane celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary. In 1949, Judge Fryer graduated UGA and entered Georgia's Law School to begin his lifelong study and practice of the law. Upon graduation from law school, Judge Fryer enlisted in the United States Army. After completing basic training, he was shipped overseas and, as a Second Lieutenant, became Chief Legal Officer at the Tokyo Army Hospital. While overseas, Judge Fryer honed his skills as an accomplished ping pong player while serving as Manager of the Officers Club at the hospital base. After the end of the Korean Conflict, Judge Fryer was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army and returned to Atlanta with his wife and newly arrived son, Matthew. He started his legal career with a position at the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Georgia. From the Attorney General's Office, Judge Fryer was hired to work for the law firm of McKenzie, Kaler and Shulman. It was here he met Sam McKenzie and Ernest Tidwell, two lawyers he later served with on the Fulton County Superior Court bench. After leaving this firm, Judge Fryer continued his trial practice with the office of Samuel Dettlebach, Esq. On June 1, 1960, he formed his own law firm, Fryer and Harp, with his friend William Harp. Several years later, Fryer and Harp merged with law firm Arnall, Golden and Gregory, which was then led by former Governor Ellis Arnall. In 1971, then Governor Jimmy Carter appointed Judge Fryer to his first judgeship on the Civil Court of Fulton County. This historical appointment marked the first time a Jew had reached the trial court level in the state of Georgia and Judge Fryer is listed in Who's Who in America for this accomplishment. Upon his appointment, Judge Fryer was interviewed in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution and was quoted as saying that the appointment to the judgeship was his opportunity ×to give back to the community× all the rewards he had earned in the practice of law. Two years later, Governor Carter appointed Judge Fryer to the Superior Court of Fulton County, a position Judge Fryer held until his death. During Judge Fryer's thirty plus years on the bench, he gained the love, admiration, and respect of the many judges, lawyers and staff that worked for and with him, practiced before him, and were mentored by him. Judge Fryer's judicial accomplishments are too numerous to recite. However, he was most proud of his work with the Judicial Council of Georgia where he worked tirelessly for increased salary and pension benefits for both active and retired judges of the courts of Georgia. Nationally, he gained recognition as a Distinguished Member of the National Conference of State Courts, always striving to increase the efficiency of the administration of justice. During his tenure on the Superior Court, Judge Fryer was noted as being extremely independent, in particular as it related to him acting as a watchdog over Fulton County's taxing and spending practices in 1991. In 1992, Judge Fryer took senior Judge status and began the Master Calendar program at Fulton Superior Court where he fast tracked civil cases for trial in an effort to assist the other sitting judges. He was often described as having ×fiery, sometimes caustic demeanor on the bench× and his sayings such as ×a liar never tells the truth× remain legendary around the Fulton County Courthouse. Judge Fryer's involvement in his community is also noteworthy. He served on the Board of Trustees of his synagogue, Ahavath Achim, where he also taught Sunday school to teenage congregants. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai Brith Organization, and on the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Jewish Community Center. An avid golfer, Judge Fryer was a longtime member of the Standard Club and the Sea Island Golf Club on St. Simons Island, where he loved to vacation with his family. Judge Fryer was a member of The Old War Horses Lawyers Club, The Lawyers Club of Atlanta, The North Fulton Bar Association, The Atlanta Bar Association, The Council of Superior Court Judges, The National Conference of State Court Judges, and The State Bar of Georgia. Judge Fryer passed away in February, 2006.


0.2 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Papers are arranged in alphabetical order by subject and chronological order within each file.

Custodial History

The Joel Fryer Papers are part of the Savannah Jewish Archives that were transferred from the Georgia Historical Society to the Breman Museum in 2015.

Separated Materials

Oversized materials removed to Oversized Collection. Photographs removed to Visual Arts Collection.

Processing Information

Processed by Jeremy Katz (January 2018)

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum Repository

1440 Spring St. NW
Atlanta Georgia 30309 United States