For 20 years, I was privileged to practice law with Bob Martin. One of the most difficult things I ever had to do was to walk into his office in December of 2000 and tell him that I was leaving the firm for a new opportunity at my current firm.
I will always treasure the years at Welch, Martin, Albano & Manners, but the last 16 and a half years have been the best years of my life. I left my old firm for two reasons. First, because my close friend and partner, Mike Manners, was leaving the firm to become a judge. Mike and I tried many cases together and we were a dynamic duo, primarily because of Mike’s trial skills. Yet, I had the opportunity to join three of the best lawyers in the metropolitan area and I could not pass up that opportunity. As many of you know, I am a man of faith and I firmly believe that God had this all planned.
The day I told Bob Martin I was leaving his firm was a very sad day. I could tell from his silent response that he was not pleased and while he did not tell me so, I think he probably felt like I had betrayed him. Others had left before me and so it was not a new experience for him, but Bob and I were very close and I think my departure hit him especially hard.
Bob went to be with the Lord last Monday as he had an unexpected heart attack. He had a full life, yet his death creates a huge void for many. Bob quit practicing a few years ago, but he was a fixture at 311 W. Kansas for nearly 60 years.
I joined the firm in 1980 and we went through a period of growth in the 1980s. At one time we had 14 lawyers and even had plans drawn for a new building adjacent to our existing offices. The departure of two lawyers followed by the departure of two others caused those plans to be abandoned. We found that nine or 10 was the perfect number to have in the firm and we remained at that number until I left.
I have especially fond memories of Bob Martin. Almost every day, Bob would drop by my office at some point to chat for a few moments. The topics varied from day to day. Bob was a criminal defense lawyer and had several business clients so his practice differed from mine as a civil litigator. Politics was a favorite topic. Bob actually served two terms in the Missouri legislature and had a special insight into state politics.
Bob never got the credit he deserved as a trial lawyer. He did not try many cases, but when he did go to the courtroom, he was a star. Early in my career, he asked me to go with him to a trial in a criminal case. His client had been charged with armed robbery of a pharmacy. Larry Schaffer was the prosecutor and was a good one.
I had never been in a criminal trial before, so it was an exciting experience for me. I was so impressed with Bob’s skills in the courtroom, but what I noticed most was his charisma. There were several women on the jury and Bob was a very athletic handsome man. Bob and I went to lunch one day during the trial and I told him that I noticed that the women were paying close attention to every move he made. Bob won the case and I suspect that the female jurors had something to do with that. Our client was probably innocent as he told the prosecutor during deliberations that he did not commit the crime, but had done another shortly before it. Our client was later killed while committing another crime, so his life of crime did not end well.
Bob only tried a handful of jury trials in my 20 years with the firm, which was a shame because he was very good at it. I learned a lot from him. As a young lawyer, I remember him telling me on numerous occasions when I learned something new that “they did not teach me that lesson in law school.” Experience was the best teacher and Bob Martin knew that.
I had the best father anyone could ask for, but I always viewed Bob as a father figure. He was about 20 years older than me and he had much wisdom. We had some great times together.
Bob made many trips to Las Vegas and one day he was telling about a recent trip he had made and I commented that I had never been to Vegas. He then told me that we were going to Vegas and off we went. Bob was an extraordinary blackjack player and loved the thrill of gambling. For years, he went to a small hotel off the strip called the Maxim and Bob was treated like royalty there. That trip to Vegas was very memorable as he showed me the city.
Bob Martin will be missed by many. He had a zest for life that few have. He spent most of his adult life in public service, initially in the Air Force and then later after his two terms on the legislature, on the Metropolitan College Board of Trustees.
He was also a man of strong faith. Although he went to Vegas frequently, he always arose early on Sunday morning and went to a church near the strip. His relationship with God was an essential part of his life. He now gets to spend eternity with Him.
-- Bob Buckley is an attorney in Independence, www.wagblaw.com . Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org