Commencement Speaker

Robert L. Shannon

2019 Commencement Speaker, Robert Shannon

A national trial lawyer representing Fortune 100 companies in high exposure matters throughout the United States, Robert L. Shannon is a senior shareholder in the Atlanta office of Baker Donelson, the 64th largest firm in the country. His clients often refer to him as a SWAT attorney since he routinely parachutes into cases shortly before trial to assume the role as lead trial counsel. He has appeared in cases days before a trial, and in one case involving a multinational company, he assumed the role as lead trial counsel on the second day of trial. He has parachuted into more than 250 cases across the nation.

Shannon graduated from Valdosta State in 1981 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science. He was the first African-American student to serve as comptroller for the Student Government Association; he was elected president the following year. He also served as president of the Kappa Delta Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. In 1980 he led the student effort to start a football program.

Upon graduation Shannon was commissioned into the U.S. Air Force through Valdosta State’s Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corp Detachment 172. He served on active duty for seven years, flying with the 552nd Air Warning Control Wing at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. He then transferred to the Air National Guard to attend law school, graduating with a Juris Doctorate from the University of Georgia in 1991.

During his more than 35-year military career, Shannon deployed 18 times in support of combat and contingency operations to approximately 30 countries. He retired from the U.S. Air Force as major general in March 2017. In the last four years of his military career he averaged almost 170 days a year performing his assigned military duties at 25th Air Force and at the Pentagon while conducting high exposure trials throughout the United States in his civilian capacity.

“From his early days as a student leader on our beautiful campus to his commitment to honorably serving and defending this great nation to his very successful career as a trial lawyer, Major General Shannon is a shining example of how one person can make a difference in the lives of so many,” said Dr. Richard A. Carvajal, president of VSU. “We are proud that he will be joining us as we recognize the outstanding efforts of our fall graduates and celebrate education as the foundation upon which success is built. We believe that his message will engage, inspire, and empower our students as they head out into the world and seek to make a positive impact.”