We seem to have lost our fair share of our sisters and brothers of the bar this year. Perhaps it is just being older that makes me feel the loss as keenly as I do. But on the first day of this new year, we lost Tony McClain, General Counsel for the Alabama State Bar and my friend. This loss has left me feeling hollow despite the fact I know my friend is with his Lord.
I grieve for Tony’s surviving spouse, Leah McClain, who in my opinion is an angel walking the face of this planet and one of the kindest and generous of spirit people I have ever had the pleasure to know. Tony and Leah were soulmates and the strongest of partners. Tony suffered with Multiple Myeloma, a cancer affecting plasma cells in the bone marrow, as did my own daddy before his passing. The battle with this cancer is not for the faint of heart and Tony retired from his position as General Counsel of the state bar to attend to his treatment back in 2013. After his initial successful treatment, Tony could have simply remained retired and enjoyed his time with Leah. However, he was so dedicated to the care taking of lawyers in Alabama, that upon his remission he returned to the helm of the Office of General Counsel.
Now, perhaps some may find my description of “a caretaker of lawyers” strange given Tony’s job. Let me offer the words of our Alabama State Bar President, Cole Portis, as proof of of this point:
“Tony McClain was an encourager. He possessed wisdom and he was a servant leader. These three traits are vital when one holds the position of general counsel for the Alabama State Bar. I think his most important trait, though, was his ability as the prosecutor to show compassion even when discipline was being leveled against an attorney.”
I cannot imagine that there are many of us who have not benefited from being educated by Tony at our yearly CLE seminars. Tony’s legacy for me was his unrelenting quest for civility between ourselves as lawyers and towards our clients and the courts. For Tony, if you held fast to your civility, then you never really had to worry about running afoul of the Rules of Professional Conduct as civility would always lead you in the correct direction. To this end he was an outstanding educator and I am proud to call him my friend.
For those who would like to honor his legacy, Leah has asked that contributions be made to:
Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation
383 Main Avenue, 5th Floor
Norwalk, CT 06851.
Carla M. Handy is the Managing Partner of the Bond & Botes Law Offices in Gadsden and Anniston, Alabama. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Auburn University, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Alabama School of Law. She has been helping families navigate consumer bankruptcy cases since 1994.Read her full bio here.