Volunteer Spotlight: Jim Long

Docents enable Trees Atlanta to extend a variety of programs to communities across the city. This special group of “Certified Volunteers” complete extensive training to become tree tour docents for Trees Atlanta. As we gear up for our upcoming Docent Training program (starts January 2024), please meet one of our longtime tree tour docents. 

Jim Long recounts his 7-year volunteering experience with Trees Atlanta. He combines his love for Virginia-Highland, architecture, and history with his appreciation for the urban trees that are part of them all.

How I connected to Trees Atlanta.
My longtime law partner Tom Holder had been a classmate at Emory Law School with Trees Atlanta’s first Executive Director Marcia Bansley. I had read and heard great things about Trees Atlanta for many years. I’m an avid gardener so I decided to use and improve my knowledge and help out.

My background.
I’m a native of Cincinnati where I logged many hours as my mother’s yard guy. I gravitated south to Davidson College in Davidson, NC and continued to the U of Florida for my law degree. November will mark my 50th year in Atlanta. I practiced law for 38 years, the last 32 representing injured workers with the firm of Long & Holder. My charming wife Marsha and I moved to Virginia-Highland 17 years ago.

Why did I become a Trees Atlanta docent?
When I retired 5 years ago I wanted to make a contribution to the community. Many years ago I had given and enjoyed architectural tours of the downtown Fairlie-Poplar district. I saw the opportunity to talk about three things that I know well and enjoy learning about: my neighborhood of Virginia-Highland, architecture, and history.

What do I get out of being a docent?
I love meeting new people and  learning new things about plants, architecture and history, and working with the wonderful staff at Trees Atlanta. My wife will assure you that I’m on constant watch wherever we walk or travel for new plants and new ideas. For the curious docent, there is constant information about trees and plants and odd events in plant history, such as the graduate student who cut down a 4500 year old bristlecone pine so he could take it back to the lab for study. The knowledge I have gained has helped me in leading the parks committee of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association in maintaining our parks and attacking invasive species.

Why serving as a docent is important.
What better place than in the “City in a Forest” to lead folks through the Virginia-Highland Neighborhood Arboretum and Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum and show off our extraordinary good fortune. At the same time, we can address what we are facing with climate change, just how important the humble tree is to the battle, the great things Trees Atlanta has done and what can be done in the future to address this existential problem.


Docents share their talents in many ways, including leading tree tours, speaking to community groups, and representing Trees Atlanta a community festivals and gatherings. If you are interested in becoming a Trees Atlanta Docent, sign up for the next class of Docent Training. Scholarships and fee waivers are available upon request. 

Photo credits above: (L-R) 1 and 2 – Jeff Keesee for Trees Atlanta; 3 – Maria Soto for Trees Atlanta; 4 – historical then and now photo from


Published October 24, 2023