Most people probably don’t know anything about the namesake of the Judge Vincent E. Baker Memorial Highway, whose name adorns a sign on I-470, between I-70 and Lakewood Blvd.

A Jackson County Associate Circuit Judge, who served in that role from 1981 to 1991, Judge Baker was friendly and affable. He was conscientious, but practical. He didn’t give anybody a hard time, and was patient with young lawyers like me. They certainly haven’t all been that way, especially in the 1980s.

But how did kindly old Judge Baker, a very low-key gentleman who passed away in 2015 at the age of 93, rank a section of highway, let alone the highway alongside Lakewood being named for him, for crying out loud.

Well, it turns out Judge Baker, born in 1921, represented the best that the greatest generation has to offer.

He enlisted in the military in 1939, was promoted to an artillery officer, landed at Normandy on D-Day in 1944, and was part of an artillery battalion that fought its way across Europe in a number of major campaigns, to victory in World War II.

Judge Baker was wounded five times by war’s end, received numerous medals and commendations, and attended law school after the war on the G.I. Bill.

So I’m thinking Judge Baker was a bit of a stud in his day, just the kind of guy who, being lucky enough to fight his way across Europe and survive World War II, take the opportunity go through law school on the G.I. Bill, and come back to finish his legal career as an associate circuit judge in Jackson County, Missouri, deserves to have a highway named after him. Plus, he really was a good guy.

These are hard days

There’s no doubt these are unprecedented, historical times. I only wonder how much longer this will go on, and even if we have incremental changes back in the direction of life as we once knew it, when, if ever, will we get all the way back to the way things were before.

How will many companies, large and small, survive this economic shutdown, I wonder, as I see vast empty parking lots and businesses sitting idle for weeks now.

Not only are many big businesses in economic free fall, but think about their workers who depend on their next paycheck.

Yes, unemployment benefits, special SBA loans, and stimulus funds provide a safety net, but these types of things have their limit. That money has to come from somewhere, you know. It’s not unlimited. Something’s got to give.

I do wonder if, eventually, most of those businesses that were shut down by this mess, and may be shut down for a while into the future, will simply dry up and blow away.

It’s hard to keep a business afloat when the doors are shuttered and the money to pay the many bills each month comes to a screeching halt, plus a large segment of society that makes up customers and clients is rocked by unprecedented hard times, too.

And I’m sure that many are in default on their rent, utilities, accounts and suppliers, and it could be just a matter of time before these creditors take enforcement action, with evictions and collection lawsuits, driving many who were managing to survive in business out of business.

This may lead to a glutted market of retail and office space that has gone vacant due to economic disaster. This may lead to default by property owners, and banks taking back property in record fashion. Throw in the reduction in property and rental values caused by all of this, and you could have massive, bank-driven turnover, at rock bottom prices. Add to depressed commercial property prices, a marketplace that has lost a lot of its marketers, and perhaps at that point, we’ll see wonderful economic opportunities that may benefit those who are ready to start up again, after the herd has been thinned. Nothing lasts forever, you know. Good or bad.

I don’t know, but maybe.

Ken Garten is a Blue Springs attorney. Email him at