The Crawford County legal community is mourning the death of long-time Robinson attorney Robert Douglas.
Douglas died early Tuesday at Crawford Memorial Hospital. The Oblong native was 77.
Retired Circuit Judge David Correll, who started his legal career with Douglas' firm in 1974, remembered Douglas as tough and fearless.
"You would never feel Bob was intimidated by any individual or any situation," Correll said. "He wasn't afraid of public feedback and didn't shy away from what might be categorized as negative public opinion."
"Nobody fought harder for a client than Bob Douglas," Mattoon attorney Fred Johnson said.
"He was well-respected through out the legal community and remembered for his zealous advocacy for his clients in and out of the courtroom," Crawford County Associate Judge Mark Shaner said.
"Even though he tried some extremely controversial cases, he believed in fighting for the law," Marie Douglas, his wife of 54 years, added. "He truly, truly loved the law."
"Bob and I spent decades sharing the same mistress - the law," Robinson attorney Mark Weber said.
"He was my toughest and most ethical opponent for more than 50 years," Weber added, saying he and all members of the bar were in mourning. "My condolences to his spouse and my friend, Marie, and to Clint, his son."
"I've known Bob for over 25 years and have always had the deepest respect for him," Crawford County Circuit Clerk Angela Reinoehl said. "My condolences to his family."
Douglas never said what led him to chose the law as a profession. "It just seemed a natural progression of things," his wife explained.
Douglas graduated from Oblong High School in 1954. He then served in the U.S. Navy for two tours of duty aboard the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown.
Following his stint in the military, Douglas attended the University of Illinois. In 1960, he married Marie Chalstrom of Joliet and Kansas City.
Douglas earned his law degree from U of I's Law College in 1965. While there, he was president of the student bar association.
Douglas' first job as an attorney was with the Chicago area firm of Peterson, Lowry, Rall, Baker and Ross. He worked in the litigation department and was mentored by renowned trial lawyer H.W. Huff.
He then joined Hutchenson and Schutte law firm in Joliet before returning to Crawford County to become a partner in the firm of Eagleston, Newlin and Douglas.
The decision to come home was easy - Douglas was a fourth-generation Crawford Countian. Douglas Street, which runs along the east side of the courthouse square, was named for his grandfather, banker E.L. Douglas.
In 1968, Douglas ran for Crawford County state's attorney as a Republican. During the race, Douglas touted his relative youth as a plus, pointing out the Illinois criminal code had been completely revised the same year he graduated law school. "Elect a state's attorney who knows the new law," his advertisements in the Daily News urged voters.
Douglas lost a close race to Robert Whitmer. Afterword, the two men became lifelong friends.
A trial lawyer, Douglas specialized in personal injury and workers' compensation, as well as criminal defense and appeals. Besides his work in Illinois, he also tried major cases in Indiana, Missouri and Florida.
Douglas was admitted to practice in federal court districts in Benton and Danville, as well as the federal appellate court in Chicago. He also argued cases before the Illinois and U.S. supreme courts.
Douglas hired Johnson fresh out of law school in 1981. Johnson worked for Douglas until the summer of 1990 and continued to keep in touch after that. He said he could never have had the wealth of experience he gained working with Douglas anywhere else.
Douglas was a member and three-time president of the Crawford County Bar Association. He was also a member of the Illinois and American bar associations, the board of managers of the Illinois Trail Lawyers Association and the American Trial Lawyers Association.
As passionate as he was about the law, Douglas also loved his family and being a cattleman.
"He was a cattleman to the heart," Marie said. "He never met a cow he didn't love."
Douglas owned the No. 1 Jersey herd in the state in the 1980s and at one time owned one of the lead Angus bulls. He was working with registered shorthorns until recently.
Douglas even kept two heifers in a dog pen outside the apartment he and Marie lived in while attending U of I.
"Obviously, they outgrew the pen by the time he finished law school," she said.
He was a member of the American Shorthorn Association, the American Angus Association and the American Jersey Cattle Club. Accompanied by his son, Clint, he showed cattle on every level from the Crawford County Fair to the International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Ky.
Correll recalled how proud Douglas was of Clint, now a Washington, D.C., resident. Clint served three tours with U.S. Army Special Forces in Afghanistan. Correll said Douglas kept a photo in his office of Clint on horseback in Afghan garb.
Douglas traveled the world and read extensively. He published articles in both legal and cattle industry publications. He also established two agriculture scholarships at U of I and one at Joliet Junior College.
He was a member of Central United Methodist Church of Oblong, the Thomas Jefferson Society and Clan Douglas of Chicago, the Robinson Elks, the VFW, the American Legion and Quail Creek Country Club.
Johnson last visited Douglas at his home a few weeks ago.
"We shared two hours of coffee and lots of laughs," he remembered. "His handshake was as firm as ever. I can't believe how rapidly he went downhill after that. I'm very glad we had the opportunity to see one another again."
Douglas closed his office in July 2013 after 49 years in practice.
Besides his wife and son, his survivors include a brother, John, and his wife of Greenville, S.C. A celebration of his life is being planned for a later date.
Posted: Sunday, February 05, 2017
Article comment by:
I have been trying to contact Mrs. Marie Douglas for some time now. Would you please ask if she might return this message with an email? Thank you so very much. If my name sounds unfamiliar, please remind her that I live in Vancouver, B.C.