Thomas H. Freeland, IV

It was less than two years ago that I posted about the legacy of professionalism/mentoring of Thomas H. Freeland, III. Last weekend the most direct part of that legacy left us as his son and my friend, Thomas H. Freeland, IV, aged 59, died. It is difficult to find new friends when you change careers and move to the South from New England where I lived and practiced law until I was almost the age Tom was when he died. Tom lived in Oxford since he was a boy, but he made it easy to be a friend. Tom was passionate about law, so many of our lunches or evening gatherings with Joyce Freeland and Denise Collier (my wife) over cocktails on The Square would start by him asking me to review a brief he was writing or discuss strategy on one of his cases or with me seeking his insight for my research or teaching. It was a joy to be able to discuss law with someone who was intelligent, analytical, passionate, and sane. Yet, the conversations soon turned elsewhere. Tom had a wide-range of interests – politics, food, music, history, family – and encyclopedic knowledge of each of them. When Tom became ill we frequently talked about the possibility of a sooner-rather-than-later death since he knew I had come to face-to-face with it myself not long ago. Even in those conversations, his concern was primarily about others rather than himself.

As a lawyer, Tom was what I hope all my students will become whether as a paralegal or as an attorney: smart, insightful, extremely knowledgeable, and devoted to helping people rather making money. Tom was always working on appeals for indigent death row prisoners, FAPE (fair, appropriate, public education) hearings for autistic children, and wills for people with little to leave their family and nothing to pay him. I was thrilled when he agreed to act as local counsel on my first case in a Mississippi federal court. Our collaboration on that case was the best I’ve experienced.

Tom and his wife (and law partner) took on interns from the law school and our program who had difficulty finding other positions and mentored them until they reached their full potential. When our youngest, now a 1L at UC Berkeley, was still at Tulane, they provided her with a summer experience in law that will remain an inspiration to her throughout her legal career.

As individuals, we will all eventually move on from the loss, although I’ll likely be asking myself, “What would Tom say about this?” for the rest of my life. But the State of Mississippi will never fill the gap left by his death.

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