Atmore city attorney Joe Thompson retires after 38 years

Published 4:38 am Monday, February 28, 2005

By By Lee Weyhrich
A ceremony Wednesday marked the changing of the guard in the City of Atmore.
For nearly half a century Joe Thompson, 73, of Brewton, has been practicing law. For most of that time he has served the cities of Atmore and Brewton as city attorney, but now he feels its time to move on.
"I guess most people keep going 'til they die and pass on, but I guess I wanted to get going while I still had the sense to know what I was doing," Thompson said as he laughed.
Thompson believes both Atmore and Brewton will be in good hands without him, but isn't sure if he will be all right without them.
"I'm going to miss all my friends and the people I've worked with over the years," Thompson said. "I'll still get to see them on occasion, but not as often."
Thompson has made a lot of friends and seen a lot of people in those years.
"I've represented the City of Atmore through three or four different mayors, and several different council people," Thompson said. "I think the City of Atmore will continue to grow."
There have been a lot of changes and a lot of growth in Thompson's time as an attorney.
"When I came in 1959, I worked with Leon Brooks and Brooks Garret Sr.," Thompson said.
When one of Thompson's law partners had a heart attack nearly 40 years ago Thompson took his place as city attorney for Atmore
"He (Leon Brooks) had a heart attack and just didn't come back and I've been coming every Wednesday since, for 38 years," Thompson said.
Unlike his predecessor Thompson is not leaving his job for health reasons.
"Everybody asks, 'why are you retiring?'" Thompson explained. "There's no specific reason I can think of. You just reach a point in life when you decide its time to do something different. As far as I know my health is good and maybe I'll live another 20 years"
Although there are no specific reasons for retiring Thompson is looking forward to spending more time at home.
"I have a wife and four children and seven grandchildren, so I have people to keep me entertained," he said.
While he will no longer be practicing law, Thompson said he would keep tabs on the firm.
"I think my law firm can take care of the clients without me," Thompson said.
When Thompson began practicing law, he had just graduated from the University of Alabama's law school and had graduated from Auburn University just a couple of years before.
"I guess you can say I got most of my experience on municipal law from on the job training," Thompson said with a chuckle.
Since that time Thompson has been the attorney for First National Bank of Atmore, the City of Atmore's Utilities Board, the City of Atmore, and has for the last 35 years been the attorney for the City of Brewton.
For the last 26 years his secretary, Tiny Bolton, has worked with him, but as with the changing of any regime she is retiring with her boss.
"He hired me when I came in, so I'm just going to go ahead and retire," Bolton said.
Bolton works for the firm in which Thompson has been a senior partner, Thompson, Jarrett and Hines. The firm has two offices, one at 103 3rd Street in Atmore and the main office next to the courthouse in Brewton.
"I know that he really loved to come to Atmore and he's just really considerate of all his clients and really wants to help them," Bolton said. "He helps a lot of people by just giving them good advice without even charging."
Bolton has enjoyed working for Thompson for more than two decades.
"He's the kind of person that when he has a job to do he gets it done; he's on top of things," she said. "He's a nice guy and he loves what he does. He's a nice person to work for and he works well with people."
According to Mayor Howard Shell, Thompson also worked well with the city.
"Over the years we have had a very pleasant relationship working with him," Shell said. "Not only was he working with the city, but he was also a very good friend."
Shell presented Thompson with the key to the city, which was fastened to an appreciation plaque.
"It's an honor we bestow on people we feel have done an outstanding job or made a contribution to the city through their efforts, and he certainly fits into that category," Shell said.
Thompson doesn't know what to think about all the attention he has received since he announced his retirement.
"I've gotten more recognition retiring than I ever did working," he said.
Wednesday was Thompson's last day in Atmore and Friday was his last day at work in Brewton. His partner Edward Hines is taking over as city attorney in both Atmore and Brewton.
"This has been a really good experience for me," Thompson concluded.

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