Thursday, June 16, 2005

Taylor retires from court with praise

By SUE WATSON
Staff Writer

Third district circuit court reporter Carole Jean Taylor retires with 30 years service July 1. She will be missed because of her longstanding efficiency and competency, said Judge Henry L. Lackey, one of five judges Taylor has worked with.

“She is the epitome of what a Southern lady is,” he said, “a wonderful person. We have other outstanding reporters but we are going to miss her guidance and leadership.”

Taylor said last week it is time for her to retire but it doesn’t seem possible.

Over the years she has made contact with a lot of people in courthouses around the district and will miss them.

“There are so many close friends; that is what makes it so hard to retire,” she said. “It is just so hard for me.”

The third district has three court reporters who share the duties. Taylor has traveled to all communities in the district to work with judges - the county seats in New Albany, Oxford, Ashland, Pittsboro, Ripley, Okolona, Houston and Holly Springs.

She has no favorite courtroom or town among the eight but said she enjoyed each community for what it offered. In Oxford the many good places to enjoy eating were fun. In New Albany shopping was interesting, she said.

Taylor began reporting in 1975 and has worked with five wise judges whom she called the best in the state - W.W. Brown, William Lamb, Kenneth Coleman, Henry Lackey and Andrew Howorth.

Her interest in court reporting budded when she worked as a secretary for attorneys Gus Smith and Sidney Hurdle in 1960.

“In one interesting case I was working on for Sidney, he let me take my pad and pencil (to court),” she said. “I got intrigued. I worked for several legal offices before I got to be court reporter.”

Disturbing cases

Taylor said some cases have affected her deeply and are not easily pushed out of the mind and heart.

“Stuff stays on your mind and it never really wears off,” she said. “It affects the way you feel about a lot of things and places. I don’t think people really realize what a serious crime problem we have.”

Taylor believes judges are also affected in this manner, especially because they have to make decisions that affect people’s lives on both sides of a case.

“I guess the bottom line is there is a judge there who has to take on those hard decisions,” she said. “It is sad to see families that come with them. You do walk away feeling the community may not realize how widespread crime is across the whole nation.”

Judges use humor a lot to dissipate emotion, she said.

Taylor cited two trials that were particularly memorable - the trial of Bart Mease who was convicted of shooting Marshall County Sheriff Osborne Bell and the Miskelly case in Benton County where a man was on trial for shooting a man over a girlfriend.

“I’ll just never forget the first time I wrote in my book, ‘death by lethal injection,’ ” she said. “I packed up and got in my car (to leave) and I just lost it. It just hit me what I had written.”

Those words were spoken in Bart Mease’s first trial. His conviction was appealed in Pittsboro and the second jury gave him life, she said.

The Miskelly case involved a shooting in Benton County following a dispute among teenagers in Tippah County, she said.

“It was a long trial and the boy was convicted,” Taylor said. “I just never knew boys killed boys over girls. There were so many people the courtroom was packed. People brought their lunch and didn’t want to give up their seats.”

The trial was interesting because a lot of experts were called to testify.

“I heard they made a movie about it,” she said.

Other experiences

Taylor recalled her first job at age 13, an 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. job at Barnett's Dry Goods Store. “I got paid $4 a day and I thought I was really rich,” she said.

She has had an assortment of jobs.

One she remembers was short lived. As a young girl Taylor accepted a job at Armor’s Drug Store. While stirring a milk shake, the machine splattered the shake over my customer, Edwin Callicutt.

“I left at noon (from the drug store) and never went back,” she said.

By the way, he was the person who much later on let me know of the court reporter position that was going to be filled.”

She also worked as a teller at the Bank of Holly Springs but didn’t stay with banking because she didn’t like handling money and having to balance the window at the end of the day.

Typing and shorthand became what she enjoyed most and did it well.

“And I am glad that my job was just to write,” she said.

The other reporters she worked with are Anita Moss and Maggie Fair and Jean Sparks, chancery reporter in the Third Judicial District.

The women were not only great people to work for but treasured friends.

Taylor said she has worked with some of the best - people who moved on to do good things.

Local attorney Gus Smith became a Mississippi Supreme Court Justice. Assistant district attorney Chuck Easley also was elected to the state Supreme Court.

Oxford District Attorney Jim Hood was elected state attorney general. Taylor worked with Fant, Crutcher and Moore. Glen Fant moved up to become Chancery Court Judge.

Retirement plans

Taylor's first priority in retirement is her family and church.

“I think I am going to enjoy both,” she said. “In court reporting, a lot of times you have to spend nights typing and miss a lot of stuff. I want to do lots of things with my children and grandchildren. I will probably freelance, too, if asked.”

She enjoys being at home and doing house and yard work. She takes early morning walks to enjoy nature and the quiet, cool part of the day. Her health is still good and she does not feel her age.

She likes to have her grandchildren Elgin, Emma, Stephen, Mitchell, Dalten and Lowery over to spend the night.

“When they spend the night they all come,” she said. “It is complete bedlam.”

Taylor also wants to be involved in community efforts.

“I was born here and Holly Springs has changed so much, but it is such a beautiful place,” she said.

She is getting her house ready for the Christmas Tour for a second time.

“I love decorating for Christmas,” she said. “It probably will occupy the rest of my year.”

Taylor’s home is listed as “The Cottage” on the Christmas Tour of Homes.

She is mother to Steve Elgin, Suzanne Lafever and Trip Taylor. Taylor is the daughter of the late Leon and Nina Brown. Her father worked for Reynolds Funeral home and owned a nursing home in New Albany.

Her brother Bill Brown lives in Texas.

Art of living

Taylor is a soloist and dresses as Minnie Mouse for the Christmas Parade and has played the Halloween Witch.

She was born on a Sunday morning and was supposed to be delivered by Dr. Seale, who had gone squirrel hunting. Dr. Grant was called to deliver her. Taylor said she thinks her mother and father probably had her enrolled in cradle roll at First Baptist Church that very day.

“They started me early,” she said.

She said she has learned to live by example and authenticity.

“What they see is what they get,” she said.

“I am really a happy person,” Taylor said. “Like everybody else, I’ve had ups and downs. But I try to concentrate on the good things and treat everyone as I would like to be treated.”

It doesn’t take much to make her happy. Her close friends have stood by her over the years regardless of what was going on in her life.

Taylor said Holly Springs was a great place to grow up in the 1950s. There was a movie theater and Wall Doxey State Park for entertainment during the summer.

She said her childhood was “about as near perfect as you can get.”

She loved school and life.

She has several book ideas and is writing one book, “Once upon a Lifetime” for her children to let them know all the good times she had growing up.

The book will consist of a collection of short stories.

Another book of fiction will combine the elements of several cases. Taylor said she may not finish it.

Friendly applause

The church and court community has planned a retirement party for Taylor where many of her close friends and associates will gather to honor her contributions.

The community is invited to join the retirement reception June 17 from 5-7 p.m. at the First Baptist Church Activities Center on East College Street in Holly Springs.

Comments from a few friends included praise from Lucy Carpenter, circuit court clerk.

“She is a super fine person, a good court reporter and will be very hard to replace. Very dedicated,” said Carpenter.

Personal friend Lou Jones called Taylor a loyal and true friend and wonderful neighbor who is “unselfish and so giving.”

“It is a pleasure to have her and her children next door,” Jones said. “She is the kind of person, whatever she belongs to, she puts her whole heart in it.”

Nina Work, a church member, agrees.

“We have worked together a lot of time in church,” Work said. “I have truly loved knowing Carol Jean as a friend. We have done a lot of church projects together and she has loads of talents and the main one is people. Everyone loves her.”


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