After working this afternoon, my sister, Knightley and I will be hitting the road for Mississippi. We will be spending tonight at my Grandmother’s house, but will be rising early tomorrow, hoping to complete the drive before sunset in Darbun. Having been delighted by the Mississippi-set novel Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, earlier this year, I have ordered another Mississippi-centric book to arrive at my parents house via Amazon. The new book isn’t fiction, though, but a non-fiction book about famed Mississippi trial attorney, Dickie Scruggs.
The Fall of the House of Zeus, by Curtis Wilkie reveals the Old-Boys Network that still governs the way much of business gets done in Mississippi. When I say Old-Boys Network, I mean it. Of the 25 or more lawyers that are named in the cast of characters at the beginning of the book, only one is a woman. Just one! In Mississippi, a good woman is a member of Junior League and supportive of all her husband’s endeavors, and that is about it. The book centers around Dickie Scruggs, the successful trial lawyer who, based on his favorable outcomes in big asbestos and tobacco cases (he is portrayed in the movie The Insider), could probably buy and sell most of the state of Mississippi if he desired.
Here is the part that is somewhat interesting to me. My Dad, not a lawyer, peripherally knows some of the cast of characters. Back in the early 2000s Scruggs was fresh off his big wins against the tobacco companies and my dad’s office was in Moss Point, Mississippi, the small town that borders the slightly larger town of Pascagoula, Mississippi. Pascagoula is essentially the town that Trent Lott built (practically everything in town is named after the former senator). Scruggs grew up in Pascagoula and married one of Trent Lott’s sisters. He split his time between Pascagoula and Oxford. Mississippi is still a very small place, where after a while, everyone knows everyone, and through the connections that my Dad had, he knew some of these people. In fact, I think my Dad may have been a little disappointed when I decided to turn down the very generous scholarship I was offered by the University of Mississippi for law school, because for my law school, he would frequently mention his acquaintances at Scruggs’s law firm that I could go and work for (I don’t know if my Dad’s acquaintances were among the plaintiffs who filed suit against Scruggs or the defendants who stuck by their boss in the civil suits leading up to Scruggs’s criminal conviction). Of course, I didn’t do that. I opted to spend my first summer at a legal aid office in Hattiesburg instead. It was a nice gesture on my Dad’s part, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be a big trial lawyer in that way.
Ten years later, Scruggs is in jail and I am not practicing law at all. I will be honest, there were moments when I had visions of myself as a female attorney crusader against injustice in Mississippi, but I have a feeling that this book will make me realize just how much tilting at windmills that pipe dream would have entailed.