1720 23rd Avenue | Boyce Holleman Blvd. | Gulfport, MS 39501

'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

Page: H4

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

Daniels.

 

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

fiction.

 

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

practice law.

 

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

attorneys.

 

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

history.

 

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.