January 6, 2010 00:00 Age: 4 yrs

Emory Law Mourns Death of Judge Anthony Alaimo

Anthony A. Alaimo 48L, senior judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, died Dec. 30, at age 89.

According to published reports, Alaimo, who graduated from Emory Law in 1948, presided over his last hearing Dec. 21, spending a full day on the bench. He was appointed to the bench by President Richard Nixon in 1971 and served from 1976-1990 before taking senior status in 1991.

In what is viewed as his most noteworthy case, Alaimo dedicated nearly 25 years of his life to reversing the poor living conditions at the Georgia State Prison at Reidsville. The case stemmed from an inmate’s 1972 civil rights complaint alleging inhumane living conditions that included overcrowding, stagnant wastewater on the floors and rats.

Alaimo visited the prison to see conditions firsthand and issued a 1,200-page order in 1978 that became a model for sweeping Georgia Prison reform. The prison was placed under Alaimo’s control, and he ordered improvements estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

He also presided over the volatile 1993 Atlanta airport corruption trial that resulted in the convictions of Atlanta City Councilman Ira Jackson and prominent businessman Dan Paradies

Alaimo was no stranger to inhumane living conditions, having served two years as a prisoner of war in WWII Germany after his B-26 bomber was shot down. He was the only survivor from the crew of 11. He was detained in POW camps in Germany, including Stalag Luft III, where the historic Great Escape was staged that would later become the inspiration for the movie of the same name.

Before being transferred to another barracks, Alaimo was among those who helped work the bellows to deliver fresh air to the prisoners who dug escape tunnels. He later escaped on his own, crossing into Switzerland.

The child of immigrant parents from the Sicilian city of Termini, Alaimo was born in 1920. A biography of his life, The Sicilian Judge, was published in February 2009. 

Alaimo’s wife of 62 years, Jeanne, died in January 2009. He is survived by his son, Phillip of Savannah, Ga.

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