The Independence County Bar Association has been named an “Outstanding Local Bar Association for 2017” by the Arkansas Bar Foundation and Arkansas Bar Association. The foundation and association annually recognize local bar associations that contribute to the administration of justice and the standing of the legal profession. Independence County last received this award in 1970.
The county bar association’s 2017 award follows a busy year. It worked to maintain local courtroom access and courtroom technology related to the closure of the United States District Courthouse for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Northern Division. The bar association recognized the Independence County Law Library Board. And it performed other work in the community.
Barrett S. Moore, the president of the Independence County Bar Association, accepted the award on behalf of the association at the Arkansas Bar Association’s 119th annual meeting.
“Our county has a long, distinguished history of notable lawyers,” said Moore in a press release announcing the presentation of the award.
Judge Richard Searcy, the namesake for Searcy County and the city of Searcy, was one of Batesville’s original settlers and first attorneys. Uriah M. Rose, a charter member and president of the American Bar Association and founder of the Rose Law Firm, began his law practice in Batesville in 1853. A marble statue of Rose now stands in the United States Capitol building. Elisha Baxter, an Arkansas Governor and Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice, practiced law in Batesville for decades. Franklin W. Desha, the namesake for Desha, Ark., practiced law in Batesville between 1847 and 1869. Desha’s descendant, Robert D. Stroud, continues that legacy today, practicing law in Batesville at the Blair & Stroud law firm.
Judge Charles F. Cole practiced in Batesville before President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Cole in the late 1950s to serve as Clerk of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. W.D. “Pete” Murphy, Jr. and W.J. “Bill” Arnold began their Batesville law practice in 1956, forming the Murphy law firm, which continues to serve Independence County. Arnold’s son, Blair, and grandson, Bill, currently practice in the same firm.
Retired Judge Carl McSpadden, a relative of Judge Don McSpadden, held court in Batesville, and the late Judge Norman Harkey, former law partner of Judge Tim Weaver, practiced, lived and judged in Batesville. Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice John Dan Kemp previously judged in Independence County. Associate Judge Josephine Linker Hart practiced law at the Gregg, Farris & Bumpers law firm before becoming an appellate judge. And local attorney Bill Walmsley recently served on the Arkansas Court of Appeals.
Today, Independence County is home to 53 licensed attorneys, with a number of those lawyers engaging in a full-time law practice.
“Some of the best lawyers in the state practice in Independence County,” said Moore. “A group of us decided it was time we started meeting again. I look forward to our future together.”