Thursday, October 4, 2012
Belk: family man who loved his community
By SUE WATSON
Friends of Fred M. Belk Jr. will miss the man who was respected by law enforcement and the community for his work as a private attorney and county prosecutor.
Belk, who retired in 2007, died Saturday.
He was county prosecutor in the murder trial of Bart Meese, the man convicted of killing former Marshall County Sheriff Osborne Bell.
In an interview in 2007, Belk said it was the one case he was most proud of prosecuting during his long career as county prosecutor.
Monet Autry, justice court clerk and sister of Sheriff Bell, was in the courtroom during that trial and said the way Belk handled the prosecution was a moment to remember.
“Fred cried in the courtroom during his closing arguments,” she said. “They (Belk and Sheriff Bell) were close friends. It was the first of April and it was snowing in Louisville that day.”
Autry later worked with Belk in their public service roles.
“We loved Fred,” she said. “His voice was always quiet, professional, and he was always friendly to people he met in the courtroom, even people to be sentenced.
“He was a man known to try to work out agreements in criminal cases between parties.
“I visited him in the hospital before he died and gave him a big hug and told him we loved him always.”
Circuit court clerk Lucy Carpenter said Belk was a dedicated public servant and always had the county’s interest at heart.
“He was a good family man and talked about his family a lot – very personable and easy to work with,” she said.
Sheriff Kenny Dickerson worked the criminal investigation in the shooting of Sheriff Bell, and Belk was one of the major prosecutors. Dickerson said Belk used all his intelligence in the courtroom, was able to think on his feet and had a knack for convincing jurors.
He was careful with case prosecution, looking over all the evidence and anticipating questions, Dickerson said.
“He was a feared competitor to any defense always,” the sheriff said. “He liked to press a case in the courtroom and liked a challenge. If you didn’t watch, he would come out on top.”
“We never lost a criminal case we worked on together.
“He also liked to have a good time. He was a good family man, loved his community and loved Marshall County.”
Maj. Kelly McMillen, with the sheriff’s department, worked first with Belk when he came on board at the sheriff’s department. He and Belk became fast friends.
“We spent many hours hunting,” McMillen said. “He loved to eat rabbit and when he was no longer able to hunt, if we had any luck, I would bring him some rabbit. I think he liked it fried and gravied with some biscuits.
“He was a dear friend of mine and his death is a great loss to this community. He will be dearly missed by me.”
Belk’s father and grandfather were also attorneys in Marshall County.
Some of his accomplishments in law included:
• elected to Mississippi Senate in 1968
• elected to county prosecutor in 1975
• served as interim chancery court judge in 1996 by appointment of the Mississippi Supreme Court
• president of the Marshall County Bar Association
• graduate of Millsaps College where he played quarterback
• graduate of Ole Miss School of Law
Belk was a gentleman, steeped in tradition.
“I’ve been a traditional prosecutor, a traditional father and a traditional lawyer,” he said in a 2007 interview. “I’m steeped in tradition – definitely of the old school. Tradition has gone by the wayside and now I’m just an old fogie. But Marshall County has been good to me. It’s been a good ride.”
See his obituary on page 2 for more information.
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