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He was fair in all things

My daddy was the fairest man I ever knew. Not once did he ever discipline my brother or me out of anger. He always made sure we understood the reason for the grounding or in earlier times the whipping we might receive. I remember once that Billy and I were both destined to receive a whipping, and I, being the older, went first. As my little brother watched he began to cry in anticipation. Daddy explained to both of us that Billy had gotten the message by watching his big brother get the licks, and he made sure both of us understood why he was going to forego putting the belt on Billy. I had no problem with that, and Billy sure didn’t have a problem with it.

World War II came along, and Daddy was actually too old, as well as having two sons, but he felt that the fair and right thing to do was make a special petition to be allowed to volunteer, and off he marched in that uniform to join the millions of other Americans standing on the parapets to defend our freedoms. He was no war hero, but he was my personal hero then and now.

I just have to digress a moment and retell a story that really has no bearing on this column, but is so funny. After Daddy came home, he promptly restocked the chicken yard since we all loved fresh eggs and fried drumsticks. One night we were all awakened by the squawking of the chickens. Daddy got a flashlight and his shotgun, cautioned all three of us to stay on the back porch and wait. In a few moments, there was one shot, and Daddy started walking back toward us. He was greeted by Ma asking him, “Who was it, Tom?” Daddy had to start laughing at that question, and then informed us it was a possum. Well, I reckon it was fair to the chickens to do away with that intruder, so the story does fit our column after all.

Now, I was really inspired to write these words today as I thought about the reputation Daddy built for fairness during the years he served as Circuit Solicitor for Marengo, Sumter and Greene counties, that title changing from Circuit Solicitor to District Attorney later on.

A prosecuting attorney wields tremendous power and discretion through his office. I have personally witnessed Daddy trying some very hideous crimes that had the population riled to a point of boiling, but he made certain that defendant had every one of his rights explained and made available. He seldom lost a trial before a jury.

Daddy died very soon after I started practicing law, but I have talked many times with his deputy District Attorneys, Joe Camp in Marengo, Marcus McConnell in Sumter and Ralph Banks in Greene. To a man they told me that they never witnessed even once when Tom Boggs manipulated the system to unfairly harm any defendant who he believed, under the law, was innocent until proven guilty.

Although he was a tough, tough prosecutor he was a compassionate Christian man, who gave breaks over and over to arrested individuals, especially younger ones. Our family was devastated when one of Daddy’s fine hunting dogs, Spotlight, was stolen. We were all delighted to hear that a young man had been arrested, and was housed in the old Castle like jail in Linden, where he confessed to stealing and selling Spotlight to some unknown man. The father of that boy came to the house to plea for his son, so Daddy had compassion on that boy. The rest of the story is that one time when Daddy had opposition for his office, that same fellow, then a full grown man, worked hard for the opposition, although Daddy carried all three counties by a huge margin. When I asked him about that fellow. Daddy just shrugged, and said that everybody had the right to support any candidate of their choosing.

I will never come close to being the lawyer or the man my Papa was, but nothing pleases me more than for one of my clients to say that I am a fair and honest man. I do not hesitate to tell them where I learned to live by those traits, and I usually get the tingles as I imagine Tom Boggs, Sr. smiling down from above upon hearing those words.

— Tom Boggs is a columnist for the Demopolis Times and a native of Marengo County. His column,“Days Gone Bye,” appears weekly.

 

(This column originally appeared in the Wednesday, July 24 issue of the Demopolis Times.)