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Attorneys look back on 50 years of law

Collier and Klein likely heard many stories last week, and told some of their own, when District 8 of the Ohio State Bar Association honored them and three other 50-year attorneys Thursday.

Monday, November 22, 1999

Collier and Klein likely heard many stories last week, and told some of their own, when District 8 of the Ohio State Bar Association honored them and three other 50-year attorneys Thursday.

Yet, the Ironton counselors insist their stories don’t sound like John Grisham’s.

"I represented a 17-year-old boy one time," Klein said, recalling a car accident and lawsuit.

"It was a week before Christmas and I got a defense verdict for the boy," he said, adding such occurrences are rare.

Collier can look back at dozens upon dozens of cases handled in county criminal courts, but cannot single one out, he said.

"They’re all big cases," Collier said, then waved a hand. "Somebody asked me once about my military experience, what’s the most exciting thing about it, and I said survival. It’s much like that in the law business."

Collier attended Ironton schools, Greenbrier Military School and Miami University before enlisting as a U.S. Air Force flying cadet in 1941.

He flew bombers during World War II, then returned to Ironton looking for work.

After offloading scrap lumber at a mill for 75 cents an hour, Collier took advantage of the GI Bill and graduated from the State University of Iowa Law School in 1949. He has been practicing in Ironton since.

"I had no great call for the law," he said. "It was a way to make a living, plus you were independent and you could help people, too."

For Klein, one semester of law school at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., passed before the Draft Board called him up for World War II duty. He served in the Army from 1943 to 1946.

Later, he graduated from the University of Cincinnati Law School and began legal work for Mutual of Omaha.

Klein opened his Ironton practice May 15, 1955, where he still practices each day with his son, Tom, his daughter-in-law and another partner.

Spending 50 years practicing law has been Klein’s goal since joining his high school debate team those many years ago, he said.

And, yes, it was there that he learned to like arguing, Klein added, grinning.

"One special thing about it, you walk in your office every morning and you didn’t know what the day would bring," he said.

About 99 percent retired now, no tie and his dog, Jack, beside his office desk most days, Collier says people have turned more litigation-minded.

"One stranger in town once said you could walk down Center Street and ask people who their lawyer is and everyone would have an answer," he said.

Klein doesn’t think human nature has changed much in the last 50 years.

Yet, a lawyer’s life is not always an easy one, or fruitful for the pocketbook, Collier said.

"These doctors get paid regardless," he said. "I have some little girl come in here beat up, no money and a no-good husband, well, you’ve got to help."

Klein agreed, adding that in any event, attorneys serve a cross section of humanity as advocates – sometimes for someone’s simplest rights, like insurance, other times for someone’s life.

"Someone asked me on vacation once who I represent and I said the people," Collier said.

Both attorneys appreciated the recognition, although both admitted it doesn’t seem like 50 years since they took that bar exam, they said.

And both have a few words for those trying the bar now.

"Try to do the right thing," Collier said, with Klein nodding in agreement. "Treat people like you like to be treated."

Klein and his wife, Ruth, married in 1947. They have three sons – Tom, also an attorney; Roger, a cardiologist; and Dennis, who works for Smythe-Barney.

Collier visits his wife, Betty, most every day at Jo-Lin Health Center. They have two children – Jimmy, who is county prosecutor, and Gretchen, who lives in Charlotte, N.C.