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Morris Chapman

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Longtime Madison County lawyer Morris Chapman, the father of an appellate court judge, has died of prostate cancer. He was 87.

Chapman, of Granite City, died Sunday. He is the father of 5th District Appellate Court Justice Melissa Chapman.

A plaintiff's trial lawyer, Morris Chapman earned his law degree in 1942 from St. Louis University Law School. He practiced law for more than 63 years, and continued taking cases to trial in his later years. In May, he presented a medical malpractice case to a jury during a nine-day trial.

Justice Melissa Chapman said her father was instrumental in developing trial rules that require parties to disclose their evidence to each other. Before that, she said, there were "trials by ambush."

"He really was considered one of the more innovative attorneys in the trial area when he first started practicing," she said.

Morris Chapman, who served as a mentor to many of the region's prominent lawyers and judges, was a past president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association and a member of the Inner Circle of Advocates, a group that touts itself as the nation's 100 best plaintiff attorneys.

He argued at case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954, and at the time was the youngest lawyer to have done so.

He was a lifetime member of NAACP, was active in the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s, and in 1966 marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Chicago.

Early in his career, he did volunteer work for the American Civil Liberties Union in Mississippi.

"Those were interesting stories because some of them involved some precarious situations, where they were actually threatened by people who I guess were not interested in desegregation," Justice Chapman said.

Morris Chapman was a watch collector, an avid aviator, a car enthusiast and raised horses.

Justice Chapman said her father rode horses on trails until he was in his mid-80s. He began flying planes decades ago.

"The story goes that he had a little mishap with his plane, and my mother put her foot down and said she wasn't going to be left with six kids," Justice Chapman said. "It was a bad landing of sorts, I guess. It involved some damage, but nobody hurt."

Justice Chapman said her father stopped flying for a few years but eventually resumed.

Morris Chapman also did volunteer work, such as distributing food and blankets to inner-city poor people. "He really had a lot of compassion for people that were in need and had less in life," Justice Chapman said.

Published in Belleville News-Democrat on Feb. 22, 2007
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