Colleagues, loved ones honor late Thomas Motley for service and dedication to children

Judges, attorneys, friends and loved ones reflected on the late Thomas Motley's legacy that spanned more than four decades during a ceremony in the Tenth Circuit Courtroom on Friday, Nov. 2.

Tenth Judicial Circuit Presiding Judge Rachel Bringer Shepherd introduced family members, representatives from the Marion County Children's Division and Tenth Circuit Marion County Associate Judge John Jackson, who delivered a resolution to present to Motley's family members and display in the court. Jackson joined fellow judges, attorneys and other officials in sharing memories about how Motley's dedication and generosity impacted defendants, colleagues and others involved in cases in Tenth Circuit.

For the past decade, Motley dedicated his efforts toward helping area children.

“While Tom took great pride in the work he did throughout his years of practice, it was his work for the abused and neglected that brought him the greatest satisfaction,” Jackson said. “He maintained contact with many of those children after representation was concluded, and he took pride in following their progress and accomplishments.”

Jackson said Motley lost his father at a young age, and his mother raised him to be a “voracious reader.” After he received his degree at Northeast Missouri Teachers' College, Motley served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, and “he maintained the deepest respect for the soldiers and sailors that he met throughout his life.”

Motley's legal career spanned almost 45 years following his graduation from the University of Missouri School of Law. He worked in the Juvenile Office in St. Louis, as a public defender in Northeast Missouri, as Municipal Judge in Hannibal and in private practice for more than 30 years.

Jackson fondly recalled how Motley's dedication to Mizzou football was contagious. He enjoyed bringing family members and friends along to share in his beloved Saturday games.

“Tom's devotion to the Tigers was only exceeded by his devotion and loyalty to friends and family,” he said. And he demonstrated steadfast dedication to his clients, said event co-chair and attorney Terrell Dempsey.

Co-chair and attorney Neil Maune volunteered with Dempsey and fellow attorney John Russell to help with the process of closing Motley's practice and taking care of various documents to file or shred. In his desk, they found numerous checks that were not cashed. Dempsey expressed his feeling of respect as he recounted the discovery.

“I don't mean one or two — there were a bunch,” he said. “I guarantee you Tom did not forget those. I guarantee he didn't cash because he knew his clients needed the money more than he did.”

Dempsey said Motley received the checks so his clients would be “invested in the case.” Dempsey also recalled a case in which Motley collected a much smaller fee than other attorneys. “Tom had enough,” Dempsey said, stressing that Motley's example brought lessons for people who might be in a situation where they sought more of something.

Tenth Circuit Ralls County Associate Judge David Mobley shared why he felt Motley chose not to retire. “I think it's because if you look at what Tom Motley did with his entire life, he liked to serve people,” Mobley said. “He was dedicated to serving people, primarily those who were less fortunate.”

Memorial gatherings like the event dedicated to Motley always offer something for people to learn and to think about, Mobley said.

“Tom Motley was somebody who was humble — he was not about 'it's all about me' — he was somebody who was dedicated to serving others, and that has to say a whole lot, and I know for a fact that will be something I will think about,” he said.

Mobley said that Motley was proud to be an attorney and he felt the same way about his colleagues, clipping out every newspaper article he found relating to an attorney's accomplishments.

Russell said it was a pleasure to work with Motley during cases — “he was always pleasant and honest and easy to work with,” he said. He said young people were always special to Motley in his practice.

“He cared about those children, he wasn't doing it for the money,” he said. “He was doing it for their best interests. He could have retired, but he kept working and focused on those types of cases. That's a real testament to his character.”

After the resolution was unanimously approved, attendees gathered for cake and punch and the chance to share more memories about Motley's enduring legacy.

trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com