'Court' Pleases Legal-Thriller Fan Holleman’s Exploits Keep Pages Turning
(Re-printed with permission from the SUN HERALD)
Sunday, June 4, 2000
Section: ART & LEISURE
BY LEN BLACKWELL / SPECIAL TO THE SUN HERALD
Illustration: Infobox: If you want to read it
Caption: Infobox: If you want to read it
What: "May It Please the Court," by Coast resident and longtime court reporter Bob
Where: May be ordered from Bob Daniels' Ink, 248 Oakwood Drive, Gulfport, MS
39507-1918; $15. The author pays shipping and will personalize on request.
Submitted Photo: Author Bob Daniels in his court reporter mode.
Move over John Grisham, because here is a legal adventure that is even better than
In his book "May It Please the Court," longtime court reporter Bob Daniels tells the
rollicking story set in the 1950s of how a young district attorney named Boyce
Holleman, in a series of landmark criminal trials, helped to bring law and order to the
wild and woolly Mississippi Gulf Coast. Be warned: do not open this book if you need
to do anything else, because you will not be able to put it down. Many of you know
Boyce Holleman as a war hero, master of trials, bar leader, Ole Miss fan,
accomplished actor, bridge player extraordinaire, golf course duffer and renowned
raconteur. Here is a rare chance to hear about some of his most courageous exploits
as a young crusading prosecutor from a keen and objective observer without actually
having to listen to Boyce talk about himself.
The author draws from the actual trial transcripts to sprinkle his narrative with the
flavor of the courtroom. The result is a great story about a great effort by a great
young D.A. to bring a villain to justice and thus send the word forth across the
Mississippi Gulf Coast that lawlessness would no longer be tolerated in these parts.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast has historically been panned as a place of licentious
wickedness. Before the War Between the States, outlaws such as the Copeland
gang roamed the countryside. Here the Prohibition laws of the 20th century were
viewed more as something to violate than to observe. Murder and mayhem occurred
along the Coast to the regular horror of uplanders.
Such was the state of affairs after World War II when young Jesse Boyce
Holleman returned from the Navy to his native area to serve in the Legislature and
What would have been a brilliant legislative career for Holleman was interrupted
when Gov. Hugh White appointed him in 1953 to fill the unexpired term left when the
district attorney for the coastal area was elevated to the bench. Holleman
immediately encountered a system corrupted by a powerful political machine, one in
which prospective jurors regularly summoned to serve were virtually committed in
advance to be inclined in favor of criminal defendants represented by certain
The fledgling D.A. was about to receive a "baptism by fire" and by trying and
winning cases he "opened the eyes of the good citizens of the Gulf Coast."
"Juries were, at last, convicting criminals," Daniels writes, and Holleman was
perceived as a threat to the political machine.
When the time arrived for election for a full term, the upstart young D.A. was
challenged by the partner of a criminal defense attorney who had benefitted greatly
from the old political machine's jury system. The election was rigged, allowing the
challenger to defeat Holleman by a narrow 142 vote margin. The election contest, in
which Holleman was represented by Joel Blass and Bob Newton of Stone County
and by J.M. Morse II, J.M. Morse III, and William H. Stewart of Pearl River
County, was one of the hardest fought controversies in South Mississippi legal
The account of Holleman's victory, after his legal team proved through voter
records that his opponent was elected by the ballots of dead people, the bedridden,
and many who were out of state, is a fascinating read. Holleman was declared the
victor in what, at long last, seemed a mandate for law and order.
The author artfully describes early trial victories by the new fully empowered district
attorney, some in capital cases. Then came a brutal murder in Hancock County, the
saga of which contained more adventure, sex, violence, and even romance than any
of today's fictionalized legal thrillers. The murder trial of "Cowboy" Dale Morris
challenged the newly reforming legal system Holleman was working to achieve.
Without giving away the story, I can tell you that this famous case includes every
element of a good mystery and adventure novel. It includes the seedy 1950s
underworld, a family curse, the public's adulation and scorn for the accused cowboy,
inside information on hung juries, and a hilarious chapter about overheard jailhouse
plots. That is followed by a description of a deadly serious assassination threat (on
Holleman's life and that of County Attorney Gaston Hewes Sr.), a daring escape
from a state-of-the-art "escape proof" jail (wherein the accused was aided by a
mysterious and beautiful redhead), and an unraveling of the yarn wherein even the
governor of our sovereign state, Honorable Ross Barnett, was hoodwinked by the
wily cowboy. Holleman emerges in the end as a victorious crime fighting D.A.
whose bold actions even outpace his legendary reputation.
Bob Daniel's jovial and highly entertaining account of all these historic adventures
marks him as a storyteller whose talents rival those of even Boyce Holleman.
Daniel's good natured treatment of such volatile subject matter deftly educates as it
keeps you turning the pages.
***Lynn Blackwell is a Coast attorney who has worked in the Coast legal
community for many years.