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William L. Norton, Jr.

Obituary Date: Sunday 8th May 2016


William L. Norton, Jr. retired Bankruptcy Judge and noted author, died on Sunday, May 8, 2016 while a resident at The Holbrook, Gainesville, GA.  He was the son of the late W.L. Norton and Eliza K. Norton and was known by many first names: Dub-L, WL, Bill, Judge, Tip Top and Elmo, but was known to his family as a loving husband, father, and grandfather.  He graduated from Gainesville High School in 1940, Oxford College at Emory, Emory University and Emory Law School.  He served as an officer in the Army during World War II, stationed on the Shemya Islands under the Alaska Command.  After he returned from the war, he married Adelaide Gregory.  Following law school, he was a law clerk to U.S. District Judge Frank Hooper of the Northern District of GA, Trial Attorney and Special Assistant to the U.S. Attorney General Tax Division, in Washington DC and Assistant Attorney General & Chief Counsel for the Georgia Dept. of Revenue in Atlanta, GA.  He returned to Gainesville to open a private law practice in 1957.  During private practice he specialized in corporate and tax law and represented the Georgia Poultry Federation. 

In 1971, he was appointed U.S. Bankruptcy Judge for the Northern District of Georgia, where he presided over cases in Atlanta, Gainesville and Rome from 1971-86.  As a bankruptcy judge he became a noted jurist and author.  He was the author and Editor in Chief of Norton Bankruptcy Law and Practice (a 13 volume treatise), along with several other monthly and annual publications published by Thomson-Reuters. He was chairman of the Bankruptcy Rules Committee of the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges 1979-86.  In 1983, Judge Norton created Norton Institutes on Bankruptcy Law, which sponsored national seminars on bankruptcy law and practice. Over the past 30 years, he has conducted over 100 seminars on bankruptcy law.  His favorite location was the seminar at Jackson, WY in Teton National Park that he began in 1982 and held annually for over 30 years.  As a bankruptcy judge, he also taught bankruptcy law at Emory University Law School and taught new bankruptcy judges at the Federal Judicial Center.

Throughout his career, Judge Norton was a principal founder of the following organizations: Richard B. Russell Foundation, Board of Counselors of Oxford College, American Bankruptcy Institute and American College of Bankruptcy.  In 1968 Judge Norton & Adelaide spearheaded the movement to save the historical houses on Green Street; as a result the Hall County Historical Society was formed.  The society sponsors Christmas on Green Street which has grown to over 7000 attendees. He also created the Gainesville-Hall Trust for Historic Preservation, primarily to preserve Head’s Mill.  Other organizations that benefited from Judge Norton’s leadership were the American Legion, Post 7 Commander 1964, where he helped start the Legions traveling baseball team and the Longstreet Society where he was instrumental in restoring General James Longstreet’s Piedmont Hotel.  In 2001, he was Editor in Chief of Historic Gainesville and Hall County (2001). 

Awards given to Judge Norton include: 1972 Special Commendation and Appreciation Award given by the Georgia Poultry Federation, 1999 Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Emory Bankruptcy Developments Journal, 1999 Distinguished Service Award given by the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges, 2002 Distinguished Service Award given by the American College of Bankruptcy, 2003 Outstanding Alumnus Award given by Oxford College, 2004 Gainesville Rotary Club Man of the Year, 2005 Emory University Law School Distinguished Alumni Award, 2006 R. Carl Chandler Award given by Oxford College and 2007 J. Pollard Turman Alumni Service Award given by Emory University.  Most notably, he has two awards given annually in his name: William L. Norton, Jr. Judicial Excellence Award given annually at the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges and the William Norton Outstanding Alumnus Award given annually by Oxford College.

Judge Norton was predeceased by his parents and sister, Malissa Crenshaw Tubbs.  He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Adelaide Gregory Norton, his brother Frank K. Norton, and children William L. Norton III (Sallie) and Martha Norton Hodge.  Grandchildren:  William L. Norton IV (Heather), Jameson K. Norton (Anna), Sarah Norton Ross (Adam), Savannah N. Hodge, Caroline G. Hodge, and Kathryn C. Hodge.  Great Grandchildren: William L. Norton V, Charles E. Norton, Jameson E. Norton, John Kingsley Norton, Luke R. Ross and Claire L. Norton.  The family wish to acknowledge the loving care from a special group of caregivers:  Denise Case, Linda Patton, Tam Wade, Connie Dills, and Cathy Davis.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Hospice of Northeast Georgia Medical Center, The Longstreet Society, First Presbyterian Church and Oxford College of Emory University.  A Memorial service will be held at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 14, 2016 at First Presbyterian Church of Gainesville 800 South Enota Dr. Gainesville, GA 30501. The family will receive friends at the church after the service in the Swetenburg Hall.

Those wishing to leave online condolences may do so at


Little & Davenport Funeral Home and Crematory, 355 Dawsonville Hwy, Gainesville, GA 30501 is in charge of arrangements.

Funeral Date
05/14/2016 at 3:00PM
Funeral Home
Little & Davenport Funeral Home and Crematory
355 Dawsonville Hwy SW, Gainesville 30501