Mercer University alumnus and Life Trustee the Hon. Walter Homer Drake Jr., whose work as a U.S. bankruptcy judge led to major reforms in bankruptcy law, has died.
Drake was one of Mercer’s biggest supporters, and as chair of the University’s Board of Trustees, he was instrumental in reviving intercollegiate football in Macon. He and his wife, the late Ruth Drake, gave the lead gift to help construct the new stadium, and the field house was named in their honor.
“Judge Drake was a leader at Mercer,” President William D. Underwood wrote in an email to the Mercer community. In addition to helping restart the football program, “he supported our work in many other ways as well.”
Drake “faithfully supported and invested in the Mercer On Mission program because he saw the positive impact it had on the lives of our students, as well as the lives of those being served,” Underwood wrote. And “he invested in the Southern studies program because he believed in studying the culture and history of the South.”
Drake’s election as a Life Trustee, the highest honor the board confers, reflected the immense respect he earned among his colleagues, Underwood wrote.
Drake was born in Colquitt in 1932, moving to Newnan as a child. Following his high school graduation, he enrolled at Mercer, where he earned his undergraduate degree in 1954 and law degree in 1956. Ruth, who predeceased Drake, was also a Mercer graduate, as is their son Taylor, who graduated from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Mercer Law. Their son Walter is an honorary alumnus of the University, and Walter’s sons Harrison and Wesley are current students at Mercer.
Some of the most impactful work of Drake’s career was serving as a U.S. bankruptcy judge. As judge, his leadership was instrumental in the passage of the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978, which modernized the bankruptcy system and brought respectability to the bankruptcy courts.
Drake, 90, died at his home on Dec. 9. A funeral is planned for 1 p.m. Dec. 14 at Central Baptist Church in Newnan. A private family interment will follow, according to his obituary.