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Former Legal Services of Southern Missouri leader dies at 77

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The former longtime leader of Legal Services of Southern Missouri has died.

Doug Kays, 77, died April 27, according to his obituary posted to GormanScharpf.com. A cause of death is not listed in the obituary.

Kays served as executive director of LSSM for 35 years before his retirement in 2015.

"During his tenure, he oversaw the merger of three organizations: Legal Aid of Southwest Missouri, Southeast Missouri Legal Services and Meramec County Legal Aid Corp., expanding services to low-income clients in 43 counties across southern Missouri," Kays' obituary reads.

LSSM provides legal aid for low-income Missourians, according to its website.

"The rule of law is at the heart of American democracy," Kays said in a 2012 Springfield Business Journal article about the nonprofit's services. "If you don’t have an opportunity to go to court and have a lawyer, then that defeats the ‘justice for all’ as we say in the Pledge of Allegiance.”

After Kays' retirement, LSSM hired Dan Wichmer as executive director, according to past reporting. Wichmer was appointed as a circuit judge in January 2023.

LSSM announced in a January news release the hiring of public defender Steve Kellogg as executive director.

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