The need to serve and help others is a common theme in the life of 2004 School of Law graduate Ronnie Mabra Jr.
The former Georgia Tech football player chose to study law in Athens with the intent of becoming a sports agent and helping athletes earn the most benefit from their physical abilities. After graduation, he found early success assisting a friend’s younger brother in securing a spot with the Green Bay Packers during the season leading up to the team’s 2011 Super Bowl win.
Seeking a more consistent paycheck and lifestyle, Mabra shifted to personal injury law at the urging of friends and family. They said they thought the work would suit his personality and his need to help others.
After landing a position at a small firm in his hometown of Fayetteville, he began making a name for himself by “working hard, trying cases and learning the business,” he said. “It was home for me. It was a bunch of people I knew and would see around town and out in the community. It was a good way to serve and help other people.”
Mabra decided to branch out on his own a few years later. He began operating his law firm from his kitchen table, then moved to a corner table at a Starbucks within a nearby Barnes & Noble. He said he and his wife, Dawn, were “walking by faith and not by sight. … We believed in God and that He would bless us and allow us to expand our territory and continue to help and serve others. And it happened.”
Friends and colleagues approached Mabra to run for the Georgia House of Representatives when new state house district lines were drawn in 2012 that covered the Fayetteville area. With his wife’s encouragement, he ran and won the seat.
“I wanted to serve,” he said. “I felt at home in the Capitol. I knew people there – friends from school and football. People knew me and they knew my father. I feel like I was able to reach across the aisle to get things done.”
And, that is exactly what he did, sponsoring two bills that were signed into law during his two terms in the state legislature.
Mabra decided not to seek a third term about the time his first son, Remiii, was born. The break in public service also provided a good opportunity for his wife to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a doctor.
With a renewed focus on his law practice, the Mabra Firm moved its operations to Midtown Atlanta. He said they purposely selected a location where there would be room to grow. In the meantime, the extra space was shared with other firms.
“It was a way to pay it forward and help other young or new attorneys just starting out,” Mabra said. “I told them to come in and not to worry about rent. We would help each other out and bounce ideas off each other. … It was a great office atmosphere of people working together.”
Mabra’s reputation has continued to grow. Over the years he was named to several 40-under-40 lists as well as a Georgia Super Lawyer. His firm also has been recognized as one of UGA’s fastest growing alumni/alumnae businesses.
In late 2021, the Mabra Firm opened what he calls a “premier, state-of-the-art law firm building.” A former warehouse on Atlanta’s west side was reconfigured to “mirror the firm’s personality,” he said. “It is outgoing and happy. It says we are lucky to be lawyers. We are in an honorable profession. We are proud to be able to serve and help others.”
Mabra’s greatest inspirations remain his mother – a retired public-school teacher – and his late father – a former NFL football player. “I want to make them proud and honor them,” he said. “I work hard for them because they poured so much into me.”
Modeling a strong work ethic, grounded in service, likewise sets a good example for Mabra’s two sons. “It is important to have a good name for our kids and to set a good example, so they know being good and working hard does pay off and that it helps to change lives.”
Mabra feels his service as a member of the Law School Association Council is another way to give back. He is also a longtime supporter of the law school’s annual Black alumni/alumnae reception in Atlanta. “It is a good event to bring the Black community together to get different perspectives of the law school … . Ideas are bounced around in an inviting atmosphere where we all have a good time.”
Regarding service, Mabra pointed to a favored quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve.” Mabra added that for him it is all about “making our community and our state a better place.”
When asked if he would consider a return to political service, Mabra said it is possible. His family life took center stage during the past few years as he and Dawn welcomed a second son, Riley, in early 2020. Following Dawn’s graduation from the Morehouse School of Medicine earlier this year, however, he said he can see a run for office at some point with his wife’s blessing.
He joked that he was undefeated in his previous races and that people should “watch out.” Given that he is both a Yellow Jacket and Bulldog, it might be hard for him to lose.