So Long, Charlie

by John J. Hopkins |
May 25, 2011, 7:00am


"Will every one please take a seat, so that we shall start the meeting. The monthly meeting of the Tri City Bar Association - Emeritus, Heavenly Division will now come to order. Before we get to the main event of the evening - the welcoming of our newest member - a few housekeeping items. For those of you who care, our new address is mile marker 55, directly North of the Pearly Gates - as if any body here is going to get any incoming mail. Secondly, the dues of Charles Jungels remain in arrears. His status will be downgraded to Purgatory Resident, second class. Will somebody PLEASE stop the fist fight between Morris Chapman and George Moran?? Every time we get together, same thing. Gentlemen - you either cease and desist or Sergeant At Arms Schooley will be forced to take action.

"To the business at hand. Welcome, new member Chapman. No introductions are needed here, but by way of orientation, I shall walk you through the landscape, sorta speak. As you can plainly see, all - well at least most - of the deceased members of the Tri City Bar Association are here, engaging in just the kind of things that gave them joy on earth. To your right, the Hartman boys - Harry and Larry - are playing cards. Horace Calvo, wearing his signature test pattern plaid sport coat, is planning events with the Co-Chairmen of the Social Committee - Bill Brandt and John Gitchoff...You will note that the smoking lamp is most surely LIT.. and no lites here... strictly Marlboro Reds, and all you want. Same for need to bother with Bud Lite. Budweiser flows endlessly. If your tastes run a little more upscale, Randall Robertson is here, proclaiming that it is always cocktail hour. Look - For the love of God - and it ain't no idle threat up here - will Morris and George stop fighting!! Mr Schooley - do your duty and restrain them both. Where was I? Oh, yes...

"You will note that the setting is the old Elks building in Granite City, exactly as it was in the late '60s and early '70s. We like the familiar here, Charlie. If you want anything to eat, just tell the ladies in the kitchen and it shall be yours. Last but not least, Judge Beatty has been waiting patiently, smoking up a storm and downing quart bottles of real Coke, eagerly waiting for some fresh Courthouse gossip. We get a pretty good closed circuit feed up here, so we see it all. Real nice funeral service by the way. So, without further ado, gentlemen, please rise and greet your newest colleague - the Honorable Charles W. Chapman."

If this did not happen, it should have. If there is no such a place, there should be.

On the 15th of May, 2011, at the age of 69, following a lifetime of service to his profession and his community, Charles W. Chapman passed away. The obits referred to him as "Charles," much more formal than the man in life who was know simply to all as just "Charlie." The resume - trial lawyer, circuit judge, appellate judge, legal scholar, and then, back to the trenches as a trial lawyer again - was impressive, but as is so often the case, it told a mere fraction of a life's story. His successes in life were measured not by titles won, articles authored or degrees conferred, but the everyday triumphs of a life well and truly lived, in the value of 47 years of marriage with Judy, the cherished moments with children and grandchildren, and the time spent in the company of fellow lawyers.

This respect was mutual, to the point of the rare event of canceling the Bar meeting to permit members to attend his wake. Charlie was always proud to be a lawyer, and happy to be around other lawyers, sharing shop talk, political talk, senseless talk. He had a very serious side, evidenced by his professional laurels, but there was a whimsical side as well, one that enjoyed the eclectic works of lawyer, turned poet Wallace Stevens, composer of among others "The Emperor of Ice Cream." This shared interest with Charlie and myself gave rise to in later life his being very generously complimentary of my articles, even those with which he did vigorously disagree.

Like most Madison County attorneys, I have my own fond memories of Charlie, many from the meetings of the Tri City Bar Association, others in the Courtroom. Countless times I heard him in the most negative of tones label one of our cases as "gypsy," only to deny the defense motion to dismiss.

Give the boys a chance... Unlike the smears found in the Post -Dispatch of May the 19th - essentially accusing him of finding in favor of plaintiff Jim Green in his libel case vs. The Alton Telegraph as revenge for a non-endorsement in a judicial race. I always found Judge Chapman to be extremely fair and a man of great integrity, truly deserving of his selection as "Trial Judge of the Year" by the American Trial Lawyers Association.

In one trial, where I found myself defending the City of Granite City against a claim brought by enterprising Bruce Cook, after first ruling in his favor on a crucial jury instruction, Judge Chapman came back the next morning and reversed himself, saying he studied the matter overnight, and the defense should win this one. In the end, it did not matter much, as the jury awarded the plaintiff a sum far more than I was authorized to offer as settlement, but less than half of Bruce's final demand. A little bit for each side, I guess.

Charlie was a man of great faith, so his journey now over, he rests in the solace of the just man, his work good and truly performed, the labors here on earth over. When his life is finally judged this time by the Court of THE Supreme, he once again he will hear the word he loved so much...AFFIRMED.

Rest in peace, your Honor. Thanks, Charlie for everything. We are all better for your passing this way. Be not afraid.

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