I am Tom Freeland, a lawyer in Oxford, Mississippi. The picture in the header is my law office. I'm on Twitter as NMissC

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RIP Leonard McClellan, lawyer who did important work in Oxford in the 70s and 80s

Jinny Kilgore, who runs the Elder Law Program at North Mississippi Rural Legal Services here in Oxford, wrote me to remember Leonard McClellan, who was at legal services in the 70s and 80s.

Leonard was 61.  His funeral was yesterday at Saints Junior College in Lexington, with resolutions read by NMRLS, Bennie Thompson, and the Magnolia Bar, among others.

Here’s what Jennie wrote:

In retrospect, I really lucked out in my early legal experiences in Oxford, in that I learned the ropes of the legal profession from people like Leonard McClellan, Alvin Chambliss, David Bell and David Hill.  When I first hung out my shingle with David Hill in January, 1976, there were no women lawyers in private practice in Oxford.  Diane Coleman and Mary Ann Connell had not graduated as yet. North Mississippi Rural Legal Services had Beverly Druitt, who later worked with the NLRB in Memphis and Doris Berry, who went on to Knoxville.

David and I filed  some class action employment discrimination cases, such as Smith v. Meskar Steel, a New Albany factory and the case against Chromcraft in Senatobia.  We also signed up for prison 1983 cases when Judge Keady asked the bar for volunteers.  We also filed Lewis v. NRC to require adequate notice on an environmental impact statement for the Yellow Creek Nuclear Plant in Iuka, MS.  We didn’t have forms or know how to proceed in these cases, and we would go down to NMRLS and ask Leonard and Alvin for forms.

I applied to work at NMRLS and then went to work with Leonard and Alvin and David Bell in January, 1978.  It was a very good experience to learn from lawyers like Leonard.  He was open to working side by side with me and treated me in all ways as an equal during a time when few lawyers were open to working that way with women.  We did a lot of good work together with little thought of anything except helping the people who needed legal assistance and without much thought of compensation.

I appreciated the words of wisdom that you had for my students last year, when you told them how important it was to start your practice working with people who have integrity.  I was very lucky to have been associated with Leonard McClellan and the other lawyers who helped me and worked with me in the early years.  I had no connections in the legal world when I came out of law school and it was a stroke of luck to be able to do the work with the attorneys at North Mississippi Rural Legal Services.

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