U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver (BA, Political Science '82)
Man with a Platform
Stepping Stone to Success Have Marked U.S. Attorney’s Career
If government in America strikes you as hopelessly partisan these days, you haven’t spent much time with Ed Tarver.
“When I got elected to the Georgia State Senate in 2005, I found I had friends on both sides of the aisle,” says Tarver. “I didn’t let politics get in the way of friendships. And I found my colleagues to be honorable people who represent things they truly believe in.”
Tarver, now the U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of Georgia, credits his consensus-building skills to his undergraduate days at Augusta College (now Georgia Regents University). Tarver earned his bachelor’s degree in political science in 1982. “That’s where many of my colleagues and I obtained our leadership abilities,” he says. “As chair of the Student Union, I learned how to do so many of the things I do now: overseeing a budget, presiding in meetings, articulating a position, learning to be persuasive. . . . It’s really served me well, because I’ve learned that, even in a position of some authority, you’re more effective when you can persuade people that your mission is best for the organization.”
Considering that Tarver’s current “organization” is now the country he loves, he couldn’t be more gratified with how his career has evolved. “The best thing about being a U.S. Attorney is that my special interest group is the people of the United States of America,” he says.
Not that the position comes without challenges. “[Accepting President Barack Obama’s invitation to become] a U.S. Attorney was one of the more difficult decisions I’ve had to make,” Tarver says, noting that he was loath to cut is Senate term short. “I was championing legislation that I feel very strongly about, and it was hard to walk away from that. But my wife and I agreed it would be a great opportunity for our family.”
“Of course we’re very proud of him; that goes without saying,” says wife Beverly, a longtime GRU employee currently serving as Director of the GRU Office of Student Diversity International. “At every juncture, we’ve felt very fortunate as a family.”
Tarver, who served several years as a Partner with the Augusta law firm Hull, Towill, Norman and Barrett (now Hull Barrett), was pleased not only to return to his roots but to affect change on a much larger stage than that of the state of Georgia. “U.S. Attorneys get to focus on the worst of the worst social problems,” he says. “For instance, during the housing collapse, we were able to address mortgage fraud, and we’ve also targeted pill mills (clinics that feed prescription drug addictions) and felon-in-possession crimes (illegal gun transactions). We have the discretion to focus on the issues inflicting the most harm on the public.”
His boss, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, sets the tone by encouraging the 93 U.S. Attorneys that he leads to immerse themselves in their communities. “Gen. Holder was in Savannah Feb. 6, and he took the time to address my entire office during his visit,” Tarver says. “I have the utmost respect for him and President Obama. They have tremendously difficult positions and I believe that they handle them as well as they can be handled.”
But as much as he admires Obama and Holder, Tarver reserves his greatest debt of gratitude to the parents who urged him to follow his dreams. Tarver’s father joined the military as a teen, forgoing a high school diploma but impressing on his son the esteem and fulfillment of a military career. He initially followed in his father’s footsteps, joining the Army after earning his undergraduate degree. He served seven years as a Field Artillery Officer, eventually attaining the rank of Captain. “I learned a great deal in the Army,” Tarver says. “You learn to manage resources, both human and material, and to get along with many types of people from many types of backgrounds.”
He considered making a career of it but instead opted for law school. “My parents were a little concerned,” concedes Tarver, who now had a family to raise. “They knew being an Army officer was a nice gig.”
But they supported their son’s dreams, and Tarver gleaned as many life lessons at the University of Georgia School of Law as he had during other phases of his life. “I was used to getting up early and cramming as much into each day as possible. I approached law school as a job.”
Yet a labor of love, he hastens to add. “To be able to work with and learn from lawyers who have made tremendous contributions to the field was very exciting for me.”
After law school, Tarver completed a clerkship with U.S. District Court Judge Dudley Bowen, and then joined Hull Barrett. “I enjoyed it very much,” he says. “Law gave me an opportunity to get into the community and meet many different people. It wasn’t assembly-line work. Each case stood on its own facts.” He also completed Leadership Augusta and Leadership Georgia during this period, whetting his appetite for politics.
“The political side of my career just kind of evolved,” he says. “My wife was initially opposed—you don’t really know how much of an intrusion into your personal life you’ll face until you’re in it— but we decided it was right for our family.” “I told him no,” his wife says with a laugh. “I’m from a political family; I knew what it meant. But once we committed to it, I was fine. Public service is something we have to commit to as a free society.”
Tarver was elected to the Georgia General Assembly representing Senate District 22 in 2005, winning two more re-elections before President Obama came calling.
Once his tenure as a U.S. Attorney is complete, he anticipates resuming his law practice or teaching law. Every stage of his life, he notes, has served as a platform for the next, and he looks forward to the future. “I enjoy what I do,” he says.
His wife echoes the sentiment. “There have been things in our life that were fortuitous—things coming together at the right time—as well as things we’ve worked very hard for,” she says. “We’ve had opportunities that neither of us could have imagined when we got married. It’s one of those uniquely southern American kinds of stories, I guess.”
Written by Christine Hurley Deriso