Thompson's headed for farm
By By LYDIA GRIMES Features Reporter
Joe Thompson, who's has been part of the legal community in Escambia County for almost half a century, has decided to call it quits.
For most of that time – 35 years – he's served as the attorney for the City of Brewton, a service he also provided for 38 years in Atmore, where he has kept office hours on Wednesdays.
As city attorney, Thompson he represented the city in jury trials and was on call for city officials to call upon for advice. For many years he also served as Brewton's city prosecutor before city court was taken over by the county.
Over the years his practice has changed somewhat. Years ago there was no public defender and local lawyers were appointed by the judge to furnish legal help to those who could not afford to hire a lawyer. He was often involved with criminal cases.
These days, his work has been mostly civil cases. He handles land transactions, divorces and other civil matters.
"I still do a lot of the leg work myself," he said. "Most lawyers have others to do the leg work to look up records. I am a throw-back to the old days. I used to have to do and I still do it out of habit. I keep a low profile. You don't get rich that way but that's all right."
Thompson was born in Tallapoosa County. He grew up 22 miles from Daviston on his father's dairy farm. He learned at an early age how to do hard work by helping with the milking of the cows on the farm. He graduated from Daviston High School in 1950 and left to attend what was then Auburn Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University). He graduated from Auburn in 1954 with a degree from the school of agriculture. In the meantime, he could see the writing on the wall that he would probably be called to service during the Korean War. So he enlisted in the ROTC program at Auburn and in the fall after he graduated from college he went to Fort Sill, Okla, to take a basic field artillery officer's course. He graduated and became a forward observer with the Eighth Battery 29th Field Artillery Battalion, Fourth Infantry Division in Germany. He spent his military time there instead of being sent to Korea. After his time was up there, he came back to the states and was released at Fort Benning, Ga.
Having served his military time, he was eligible for the GI Bill which helped him go back to college, this time to the University of Alabama to fulfill his wish to become an attorney.
"I couldn't see any hope in farming at that time," he said. "It turns out that many people who were farming have gone broke. I was also young and unmarried and wasn't ready to go back home. I wanted to do something else. The GI Bill was available so I took advantage of it.
He graduated from law school and at the time was not required to take a state bar exam.
"I had what was called diploma privilege," he said. "I was automatically licensed to practice law. I interviewed with Mr. Broox Garrett and decided to come to Brewton for a short time. That was in 1959 and I have been here ever since."
He came to Brewton as an associate with the firm. He was also a member of the Alabama National Guard. He was commander of a local unit that was called up when the Berlin Wall was built. He was sent to Fort Benning and the unit was prepared to go to New York to be sent overseas.
After the first of the year things calmed down enough that the National Guard units that had been activated were put on stand-by. By the end of the year, most were returned home. Thompson's unit came home and he was welcomed back into the law firm by Mr. Garrett. He soon found a local girl, Ruth Hoomes, working in the Escambia County Probate Office. He and Ruth were married in 1962 and now have four children, Lee, Davis, Julie and Bruce, and seven grandchildren, with another on the way.
Thompson said that it is time for retirement, but he doesn't expect it to be a life of ease. The Thompsons own a farm with cows and they maintain a garden every year. He plans to spend some time traveling, reading and watching plenty of movies.