No slowing down for 90-year-old Ala. lawyer

Scales of justice and gavel

TUSCUMBIA, Ala. (AP) – Charles Carmichael III always wanted to be a lawyer.

He accomplished his goal.

Now 90 years old, Carmichael continues to practice law. His is the oldest law firm in the Shoals, dating back to when Carmichael’s grandfather, Archibald Hill Carmichael, founded the firm in the early 1900s.

The office is filled with volumes of law books that makes it smell like an old library. Carmichael’s wall is filled with photos of relatives and well wishes from friends.

Carmichael admittedly isn’t too good on dates. But he still knows the law.

“It’s really changed a lot,” Carmichael said of the cases he has tried. “It used to be chasing wildcat whiskey makers who made their whiskey just to survive.

“Now, you have so many drug cases.”

The Carmichael family has long been a prominent one in the Shoals, as well as Alabama.

His grandfather was lieutenant governor of Alabama and also served as a congressman. “My grandfather was a great man,” Carmichael said.

His father was also in the Legislature and served as probate judge.

“My daddy was in two World Wars,” Carmichael said. “He had a car brought over here that was just like the one Hitler drove.”

Carmichael himself begin practicing law in 1949. He said the day after he graduated from the University of Alabama he was named the city attorney for Muscle Shoals.

“I always wanted to be a lawyer,” Carmichael said between phone calls. “I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve stayed busy. I don’t take cases like I used to, I just do what I want to do. I’ll be here as long as I want to.”

The family was also huge Democratic supporters.

“Everything we have here – TVA, Reynolds – we got from Democrats,” Carmichael said.

Carmichael’s wife of 69 years, Dorothy, died in September.

He said his grandfather was from south Alabama and ate at a boarding house, where he met Annie Suggs, who would become Carmichael’s grandmother.

They had five children, with one of them dying as a child. Three of their sons become lawyers, including Carmichael’s father.

Carmichael followed his father into the law firm, as did one of his children, who later died.

“I’ve practiced civil law, criminal law, I’ve done it all,” Carmichael said. “When I came up, there were still very few trial lawyers. Now, we’ve got them everywhere.”

Carmichael said one thing he doesn’t like to get involved with is drug cases where the custody of children is at stake.

“The children belong with their parents,” he said. “You take them away from them, and then they wind up getting in trouble themselves.”

Tony Riley, an attorney who is also human resources manager at Tiffin Motorhomes, said he has known Carmichael for about 25 years and has grown fond of Carmichael over the years.

“He used to say about Alabama history in the history books that “that ain’t the way it happened. He had been around long enough to know that the history books weren’t correct.”

Riley said Carmichael always had an “old school” approach to being a lawyer.

“He was very much old style,” Riley said. “Lawyers in his era were actors to a point, always playing to the jury. People would come to the courthouse to watch the trial.

“He could do the showmanship in a flamboyant way. Charles still has a little bit of that. He used to know everybody in the county and who they were related to.”

Attorney Tom Heflin, who is a cousin of Carmichael, calls him one of the legends that’s been around for more than 50 years.

“He’s well known in Colbert County and probably Lauderdale and Franklin, too,” Heflin said. “His grandfather started practicing law here sometime in the late 1800s or early 1900s, then he had three sons who practiced law.

Heflin said Archibald Hill Carmichael was a U.S. Congressman and Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives.

“He’s got to be the longest practicing attorney in the state,” Riley said. “I love Charlie. He’s one of the last old lawyers. He is very, very people-smart.”

Lisa King has worked as a receptionist for Carmichael for the past 27 years.

“The fact that I’ve been here that long should tell you something about him,” she said. “I wouldn’t have stayed if I didn’t enjoy being around him. Unless he has a doctor’s appointment out of town, he never misses a day of work.”

Although he’s been slowed recently by a leg injury, Carmichael doesn’t see giving up his law practice. He also loves spending time on his farm.

“I’ve had a good life,” he said.

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Information from: TimesDaily

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