Wednesday, July 02, 2008
A few words about Tom Klinginsmith
Tom Klinginsmith's death at age 59 came as quite a shock. When his son, Gregg, was the assistant principal at South Middle School, I asked frequently how his dad was doing. It was still hard for me to believe that Tom was old enough to have a son who was one of my bosses.
My favorite Tom Klinginsmith story comes from the time when he was serving as the city attorney for Jasper. At that time, the city was in much turmoil and Tom had his work cut out for him, since his bosses, the mayor and the city council did not get along with each other (a pattern that has been repeated many times since). On one occasion, after a particularly heated council meeting, the council and mayor went into closed session to discuss personnel, with the city attorney remaining in City Hall with them.
The audience, totaling about 30, walked outside, and stood by the cars talking while the session continued. I noticed that I could hear considerable shouting coming from the room, with Mayor Fred Youngblood being the source of most of it. So I stood as close to the building as I could and realized I could hear every word he was saying, so I took out my ink pen, began writing it down, and used the closed session shouting as the lead in my article in the next day's Carthage Press.
When the next council meeting came, the mayor was still ticked off by my actions and approached me before the session started. "What you did wasn't right," he said. "I could sue you for printing what went on in closed session. That's against the law."
Tom Klinginsmith, who was only a few feet behind us, quickly stepped in, and said, "No, it's not against the law, Fred. You're not going to sue Randy because he didn't do anything wrong, and you need to be quieter when we go into closed session."
Fred Youngblood did no argue with Tom and from that night on, he followed his lawyer's advice. I never did get another good story out of a Jasper City Council closed session.
Tom Klinginsmith was much more than a good lawyer. He was a good family man, and was heavily involved in his community, but his skill at handling the rambunctious Jasper City Council (and mayor) is something I will always remember.