Published on March 5, 2014 by Philip Poole  

A veteran Birmingham attorney and business executive has been named to head Samford University's Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership.

Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Drayton Nabers Jr. will become the center's new director Jan. 15. He was named following a national search to replace founding director John Knapp, who resigned last year to become president of Hope College in Michigan.

The Frances Marlin Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership is an endowed, university-wide unit that promotes student development and enriches teaching and scholarship in the university's ten academic schools. It is named for the late wife of Samford alumnus Marvin Mann, a founder and former CEO for Lexmark, Inc. Mann provided major funding for the center's establishment in 2008.

"Drayton Nabers brings an unusual blending of law, business, theology, leadership and service to Samford and to the Mann Center," said Samford Provost J. Bradley Creed. "As director, he will be able to work collaboratively with our faculty, students and the community at large to ensure that the principles of ethics and leadership that are foundational to Samford are interwoven into the fabric of all that we do. His reputation as an ethical leader will further enhance the national reputation of the university and the center in the areas of ethics and leadership."

Nabers is well-known on the Samford campus, Creed noted. He previously taught courses for Samford's Beeson Divinity School and has been a guest speaker for both the business and law schools. He also has been serving on the divinity school's advisory board.

"I am honored to be given the opportunity to join the Samford University community and to serve as director of the Frances Mann Center for Ethics and Leadership," Nabers said. "It is exciting to contemplate having a role in developing strong character in each of Samford's 4,800 students that will help assure joy and success in life-long callings."

Nabers currently is an attorney with Maynard Cooper and Gale PC in Birmingham, but he has a 50-year career as an attorney, business executive and public servant. He joined Birmingham- based Protective Life Corp. in 1979 and became chief executive officer in 1992. He retired as chairman of the board in 2002. He subsequently served as finance director for the State of Alabama until being named to the Supreme Court in 2004. He served two years as chief justice before returning to private practice in 2006.

A 1962 graduate of Princeton University, Nabers earned his law degree from Yale University in 1965. Before returning to Birmingham to practice, he was a law clerk to Justice Hugo Black on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Nabers is the author of two books on ethics and leadership: The Case for Character and The Hidden Key to Happiness.

Among his many civic and professional affiliations, Nabers is board chair for Cornerstone School of Alabama and a past president of the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham. He previously served as board chair for United Way of Central Alabama and Leadership Birmingham. He has been inducted into both the Alabama and Birmingham Business Halls of Fame. In 2011, he received the Birmingham Bar Association's L. Burton Barnes Public Service Award.

Nabers is an active member of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in suburban Birmingham. He and his wife, Fairfax, have three children and seven grandchildren.

Nabers will continue to serve of counsel with Maynard Cooper and Gale.


Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 37th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 97th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,758 students from 48 states and 22 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 3rd nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.