Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Editor's Message: Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes

By Ed Comey

As a fan of traditional country music, I’ve always thought George Jones’ classic song “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes” is vastly underappreciated. If you’ve never heard it, the song is a poignant tribute to the pioneers of traditional country music:

You know this old world is full of singers
But just a few were chosen
To tear your heart out when they sing
Imagine life without them
All your radio heroes

After lamenting there will never be another Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley, or Conway Twitty (to name a few), Jones implores others to carry on the legacy of those radio heroes: “Lord I wonder, who’s gonna fill their shoes.” That song came to mind as I sat down to write the editor’s message for this year’s inaugural issue of the Lawyer.

This year is the 25th anniversary of the Lawyer. In celebration of that milestone, each issue will feature a tribute to a person or event that has impacted the HCBA over the past 25 years. At the risk of sounding trite, it is hard to overstate the importance of having an appreciation for history. As historian David McCullough once observed, “History is who we are and why we are the way we are.”

Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me how little I knew about who we are as a legal community or why until I sat down to write this message. While I could tell you all about the “radio heroes” Jones refers to in his song, I couldn’t have told you much about our community’s “legal heroes.” Sure, I’m familiar with the names George Edgecomb and Chester Ferguson. But sadly, I didn’t actually know anything about either of them; I’ve just been to the buildings that bear their names. So over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent time researching the history of our legal community.

In doing so, I’ve read and heard fascinating stories about some remarkable people: pioneers who broke down barriers for women and people of color, paving the way for generations that followed; local lawyers who distinguished themselves as public servants — at the local, state, and national level; lawyers who used their limited time and remarkable talents to serve the needy in our community; lawyers who will be remembered far more for their professionalism than their immense legal talents.

After reading and hearing those stories, it’s clear to me that there will never be another Josephine Howard Stafford, Sam Gibbons, Cody Fowler, Arthenia Joyner, George Edgecomb, E.J. Salcines, Susan Bucklew, Charles Wilson, Chester Ferguson, Don Castor, Wm. Reece Smith Jr., Don Stichter, Ben Hill, Gwynne Young, to name only a few. It’s hard to imagine what our community would be today without our legal heroes.

Lord I wonder, who’s gonna fill their shoes.