If you have lived in the Jackson County area for the last 60 years or so, you know the name Louis Fondren.
Mr. Fondren, a distinguished attorney in Pascagoula and Moss Point since 1963, has also been the ultimate public servant. He has served in an impressive number of roles locally: City Attorney for Moss Point, Mayor of Moss Point, member of the Mississippi House of Representatives, Jackson County Public Defender, and Jackson County Justice Court Judge.
Louis’s son Michael Fondren, also a distinguished local attorney and public servant, decided that his father’s legacy should be celebrated. So it was that on August 7 at the family law offices, a beautiful painting of Louis and his wife of 60 years, Bobbie Sue, was unveiled before a gathering of friends and fellow attorneys.
“Dad was a good mentor, and he always stressed honesty and hard work,” said Michael. “I saw him work as hard on cases that didn’t pay a cent as he did on lucrative cases. I think he was interested primarily in helping people and using the law to do so. He taught me to fight for your client. Never give up. He never filed a case that he wasn’t ready to take to trial. He literally helped thousands of people throughout hise six decades of practicing law.”
Louis was originally from the Mississippi Delta, growing up in small towns like Colony Town, Berclair (birthplace of B.B. King), and Itta Bena. He attended Yale University, then graduated from Ole Miss, including the University’s law school. He began the practice of law in 1955 (coming to Jackson County in 1963 as mentioned), and stayed hard at until retiring in 2022. Not a bad 67 year run.
“Looking back, I guess I always wanted to be a lawyer, and I wanted to do the absolute best for my clients,” said Louis. “For me, I tried to always put my wonderful family first, but the practice of law was a close second. I’ve had a great career and a good life.”
Interestingly, in addition to the many offices he held, Louis also ran good, clean, but unsuccessful races for several other positions, including Mississippi Court of Appeals Judge, Mississippi Insurance Commissioner, and Governor.“ I always felt like a good lawyer should run for something every four years or so,” said Louis. “It’s a good way to serve, and it keeps your name out there.”
All of the attorneys present at the August 7 event had fond memories of working or dealing with Mr. Fondren. Neil Harris, a current local Chancery Judge, remembered how much he learned from Louis, plus his frugality.
“Practicing with Louis Fondren was a great way for me to start my career,” said Harris. “He taught me so much, and has always been a wonderful mentor. He did like to be efficient. When I eventually left to go out on my own, Louis just took the sign that read ‘Fondren & Harris’, Attorneys at Law’, painted over the ‘& Harris’, and left it up.”
Stories like that are in great supply, noting Louis’s wealth of knowledge, giving nature, and unique personality. Thankfully, those traits will carry on locally, handed down to his family: not only is Michael an attorney, but also granddaughter Kaleigh Nelson and grandson Jimmy Fondren.
In fact, Jimmy was recently elected to to serve in the Mississippi House of representatives, District 111. Combine that with the facts that Kaleigh is a skilled lawyer in her own right and Michael is a former Chancery Judge currently serving his 25th year as Pascagoula Municipal Court Judge, and the entire Fondren family legacy is quite intact.
“I’ve been more than fortunate to have a father and mother who loved all their children,” said Michael. “Through it all, my dad set a standard for our family that we will all proudly try to uphold.”