Retiring Platte County judges and lifelong friends Lee Hull, right, and Abe Shafer have seen, done it all in their combined 85 years of legal service
This is a story about two judges.
And while that is important — perhaps no two men in the history of the Platte County legal community have ever been more respected — it is just part of the story.
This is also a story of a friendship spanning the better part of seven decades.
This is also a story about justice — though not necessarily as it pertains to the courtroom.
Sixth Circuit Court Judge Abe Shafer turned 70-years-old July 18. Sixth Circuit Court Presiding Judge Lee Hull will turn 70 Sept. 1. The two men really do not look 70 and they certainly do not act like they are 70, but that is beside the point. State law requires that because they are indeed 70 years of age, they must retire from the judicial bench.
Currently, Shafer remains on the bench while Gov. Nixon mulls his replacement. Hull had initially planned to make Aug. 30 his final day, but he said he also will remain on the bench while his replacement is named and also to rule on a few pending cases.
So, a combined 85 years of experience in the Platte County legal system will soon be walking out the doors of the Platte County Courthouse.
“Platte County has been blessed to have such continuity and experience on the bench,” said Western District of Missouri Court of Appeals Judge Gary Witt. Witt was also a longtime area attorney and Sixth Circuit associate judge from 1998-2010. “They know the lawyers, the people, how things are supposed to be done – they will be extremely difficult to replace
Left behind will be an imprint on Platte County that may never be replicated and so many stories, memories and recollections that they may never all be recorded.
In an attempt to capture just a bit of those 85 years in print, The Citizen recently spent some time with the two judges. By its very nature and brevity, this report can’t possibly do their story justice. In fact, consider it a mere snapshot of the lives and careers of these two fascinating men.
Lee Hull and Abe Shafer met in 1947 in Weston when they were both 4-years-old.
Or so they were told, both men were quick to point out as it is hard to remember something that happened more than 65 years ago.
Hull’s family had been prominent in Weston for decades, while Shafer’s had relocated there from Edgerton.
The two boys played together when they were young and spent plenty of time in each other’s houses. Naturally, there were plenty of stories of boys being boys, but one stood out to Shafer.
“Lee’s mom always kept a refrigerator with Cokes just inside the back door and we would always go in there and grab one,” Shafer said.
Shafer said one day after the boys had been throwing manure-covered corn cobs at each other (and thereby accumulated a distinctive odor), they tried to sneak in and grab the cold drinks.
“But Lee’s mom caught us and kicked us out,” Shafer said.
“She could smell us a mile away,” Hull said.
“Yeah, but we still got our Cokes,” Shafer said.
“Only because you were there,” Hull said.
And so the two boys grew up and attended WestonHigh School together, where they were both standout and popular students and athletes.
Hull was the class president and Shafer the student council president.
Hull was the captain of the basketball team and Shafer the captain of the football team.
“I had the team scoring record for about two weeks, then Lee broke it,” Shafer said.
“On the basketball team, you had to be on Abe’s left side, so he could see you and pass the ball to you,” said Hull, referring to Shafer’s lifelong vision problem in his right eye.
After graduating high school in 1961, both men left Weston to attend college at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Both were members of the same fraternity and both enjoyed the college student lifestyle.
“We should probably just leave it at that,” Shafer said.
Hull agreed, then added, “I had the two best jobs of my life down there – I was a lifeguard at a country club and I tended bar at popular spot.”
After receiving their undergraduate degrees from MU, the two men parted company in notable fashion in pursuit of their law degrees. Hull remained in Columbia, while Shafer got his at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, where his family had a past history. This is of note primarily due to Hull’s renowned loyalty to MU and intense dislike of KU.
“I’m not sure how that happened,” Hull said.
“We don’t talk about it too much,” Shafer said.
Both men smiled.