The four longtime associates met for a last happy time on May 12. For one of the men it was a significant occasion--the marriage of Bert Lance's son David--and the four managed, at least outwardly, to set aside their troubles for the day.
Today, as expected, Lance, Jack Mullins, Richard Carr and Tom Mitchell met again--this time on the cover page of the government's massive criminal fraud and conspiracy indictment.
Lance, of course, was the underlying reason for their legal woes. In various ways, the three other men had tied their futures to Lance, who only a short time ago seemed destined to make himself and his associates rich and powerful.
Of the four, it is Jack Mullins' story that invariably evokes sympathy from the many investigators who have been assigned to the case. "The poor S.O.B. got in over his head and didn't even know what he was doing," is the way one federal attorney put it.
Mullins grew up in Calhoun with Bert and his wife, LaBelle. They attended the same high school, went to the same parties. Bert became the banker and Jack ran the Medical Arts Pharmacy near the hospital.
When Lance ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1974, Mullins was a co-manager of his campaign. By all accounts, he was a "go-fer" than a manager. The government says Mullins, whose earnings that year were only about $10,000, signed his name to loans totaling more than $400,000. The money allegedly was used by Lance to pay his campaign debts.
On Sept. 14, 1977, on the eve of Lance's testimony about his finances before a Senate committee, Mullins organized a rally for his old friend at the Calhoun High School football stadium.
In 1978, Mullins was forced to sell the pharmacy, apparently to help pay his own debts. Later he had a job running a hotel newsstand here in Atlanta for Lance's wealthy friend, Edward Elson, but he is now unemployed.
Richard Carr has gone through a startling transformation in recent months as his indictment loomed.
The once-conservative banker has grown a bushy beard, as if to symbolize departure from his past.
A former federal bank regulator, Carr was hired by Lance in the late 1960s to help him run Calhoun First National Bank. Carr, like Lance, used his banking position to build a personal financial empire, investing heavily in real estate.
Lance later installed Carr as president of Northwest Georgia Bank in Ringgold, one several banks in that area that Lance allegedly manipulated.
Last year, as the investigations intensified, Carr was fired by the Ringgold bank. His debts, according to public documents, amounted to about $271,000.
Carr's troubles escalated last month when the same grand jury that indicted him today accused another banker of violating banking laws with his help. That banker pleaded guilty. His sentencing has been postponed, reportedly until he testifies in the Lance case.
Carr, who was working recently for a carpet manufacturer near Ringgold, is reportedly without a job.
Tom Mitchell is a lawyer by education and a venture capitalist by inclination. Regarded as extraordinarily bright, Mitchell was chosen by Lance as his trustee when he went to Washington.
The trust, it turned out, was a complex mass of debts that would eventually drag both men into legal trouble.
Mitchell, a bachelor from Dalton,had joined Lance in investing in a network of small banks in northwest Georgia. Apparently, before Lance went off to Washington, the two men had planned to link the banks under the umbrella of a statewide holding company.
Trustee Mitchell took Lance's seat on the boards of the Calhoun bank and National Bank of Georgia. From there, he could watch as the government slowly extended the net of its investigation -- a net that eventually descended on him. CAPTION: Picture 1, RICHARD CARR . . . today he wears a bushy beard; Picture 2, TOM MITCHELL . . . could watch the net closing