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Lawyer's lawyer, judge's judge ...Appelquist leaves legacy of compassion, fairness

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Editor's note: The following article, written on behalf of the Appelquist family at the request of the Springfield Business Journal, is a remembrance of Judge Jack Appelquist, the respected southwest Missouri jurist, who died April 11.

by John F. Appelquist

for the Business Journal

Jack Appelquist may have seemed, at one time, an unlikely candidate to succeed in the scholarly world of law: The Barry County farm boy was less known for hitting the books at Springfield Teacher's College (now Southwest Missouri State University) and more for his skills hitting opposing players while on Coach "Red" Blair's football teams from 1939 through 1942.

After "V.E." day in 1945, 1st Lt. Jack Appelquist, a combat infantry officer, became commanding officer of a prisoner of war camp in allied-occupied Germany. As CO, he was both chief advocate and magistrate for all, friend and foe, under his command.

His responsibilities included the peacetime processing of Nazi captives and their legal rights under international conventions. This, his first exposure to the law, would not be soon forgotten.

Stateside in 1946, Dad got a "plum" of a job as a traveling salesman for Hallmark. He soon found, however, that life in the corporate world was not for him: One lonely Thanksgiving on business in Detroit, with no friends or family to share the traditional meal, made him resolve to find a profession. Well-remembering his post-war legal experience, he quit, telling Hallmark he was off to "take some law."

Beginning in 1947, law student Jack Appelquist attacked his studies at the Missouri University School of Law with the same ferocity with which he had chased opposing quarterbacks and engaged enemy troops. Most of his classmates were also World War II veterans. They and their spouses made a special bond which lasted through a lifetime of reunions and bar meetings.

Dad's first job was as a clerk to then-state Senator (later U.S. District Judge) Jasper Smith in Springfield. The senator made a habit of mentoring lawyers fresh out of school and, although it was a cramped office with little pay, it was a lesson Dad would remember throughout his professional life.

In 1950, lawyer Jack Appelquist hung out his shingle in Mt. Vernon. In order to assure securing his first paying client, he helped slop the hogs on the old man's farm. He felt the primary responsibility of a lawyer was to help people.

In the 13 years he spent living in Lawrence County and raising four daughters with wife Martha, he gained a well-deserved reputation not only as a fierce courtroom advocate, but also a compassionate problem solver who would, without hesitation, buy a client a pair of overalls to make sure he had something clean to wear, or give his own children's clothes to a working mother he was representing. In 1958, the voters of the county elected him prosecuting attorney.

In 1963, veteran trial attorney Jack Appelquist moved his family, including a newborn son, to Springfield. He intended to phase out his Mt. Vernon practice and devote full-time attention to business in Springfield. However, he soon found that the people in the community he had left would not let him go. For the next 20 years, Dad operated both offices, making a daily noontime commute.

Mindful of how Jasper Smith had helped him get started, over the years Dad made his office a starting-off point for young lawyers. Many of those he mentored have gone on to distinction, including Judge Kerry Montgomery of the Missouri Court of Appeals-Southern District[[In-content Ad]]

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