Sunday, January 29, 2023

Services Set for Oxford Attorney Tom Freeland at Waller Funeral Home

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Oxford attorney and HottyToddy.com contributor Thomas Henry Freeland IV, 59, died Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015 at Oshner Medical Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.

tom4Visitation is 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26, at Waller Funeral Home in Oxford. Services are 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 27, at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Oxford with the Rev. Wil Howie officiating. Burial will follow in Oxford Memorial Cemetery.

Tom practiced law in Oxford for 33 years, first with his father Hal Freeland and in the last 11 years with Hal and his wife, Joyce Freeland. He practiced at the historic Freeland & Freeland law office off the Square in Oxford, where Hal went into practice with Phil Stone, William Faulkner’s literary mentor, in the 1950s.

Tom was passionate about defending his clients and causes, cooking (the more complicated the project the better), whole hog barbecue, blues music, Mississippi history and politics.

He was an exceptional lawyer. With his father Hal, he took the Papasan v. Allain case to the U.S. Supreme Court and prevailed. The Fifth Circuit quoted his statement of the case in a 1984 death penalty appeal for Larry Jones as a textbook example of skillful lawyering: “The patent frivolousness of [the State’s] argument is nicely focused by [Mr. Freeland’s] statement of the issue: “Should Enmund be applied retroactively, or should the state be permitted one last cruel and unusual punishment before Enmund takes effect?”

tom1He has been a long-term supporter and member of the Board of the Mississippi Innocence Project. He and his father enjoyed working with law students and young lawyers and were trusted for advice on difficult legal issues by many throughout the state.

He was asked to speak on the music of Mississippi bluesman, Robert Johnson, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, debunking claims that a recently surfaced film was Robert Johnson rather than film of an unknown blues musician after Johnson’s death. He has written for publications including Living Blues, The Oxford American, Blues & Rhythm, and The Mississippi Lawyer on blues and other traditional music, Faulkner’s lawyers, local history, and barbecue.

Many people in Mississippi and beyond know Tom Freeland as NMissCommentor based on his blog that focused on legal issues, politics, blues, and Mississippi culture. Y’all Politics, a conservative blog about Mississippi politics, posted this tribute to Freeland:

I was sad to learn this afternoon of the passing of Tom Freeland. Tom was the author of nmisscommentor.com. He passed away after post-surgical complications in New Orleans this morning.

Tom and I met within the first two weeks of the Scruggs scandal. Our collaboration was unique and spanned seven plus years. I valued his insight highly. Ironically, it was almost two years of regular communication before we ever met in person, but when I came to Oxford he was always nice enough to grab a drink and visit. But for Tom, I know that the coverage of it would not have evolved as it did. He was a great supporter of the Kings of Tort book effort and I know had the capacity to write a pretty engaging book on his experiences, including the Scruggs Scandal, that may now regrettably go unfulfilled. He was a brilliant writer and his instincts on things were usually correct. For someone who shared almost none of the same political inclinations, he’s someone who otherwise saw the world in a very similar way.

My prayers go out to his wife Joyce and their family. He will be sorely missed.

He was known for his five-minute tours of the Freeland & Freeland law office, a building that has served as a law office since the 1880’s and has extensive Faulkner connections. The building appears in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. He will be missed by many.

Mr. Freeland is survived by his wife, Joyce Freeland of Oxford; his daughter, Sarah Freeland Simonson and her husband, Brian Simonson. of New Orleans; his son, Thomas Henry Freeland, V of New Orleans; his mother, Judith Hale Freeland of Oxford; his brother John Hale Freeland of Oxford; and sister Lee Freeland Hancock of Tyler, Texas. He was preceded by a brother, Robert Freeland and his father, Thomas Henry Freeland, III, both of Oxford.

Memorial contributions in Mr. Freeland’s memory may be made to The Mississippi Innocence Project, P.O. Box 1848, University, MS, 38677. Visit Waller Funeral Home’s website to sign the guestbook.

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