Platte County loses icon with death of Jim Farley

A long-time Platte County attorney and relative to the founder of Farley, Mo. died at the age of 86 early last week.

Jim Farley

James W. “Jim” Farley practiced law in the area for more than six decades. He was also active in politics and an extremely influential resident of Platte County. Farley influenced countless lives through his diverse interests both professionally and personally — a one-of-a-kind renaissance man cut from a very rare cloth.

“In the law practice, he took care of some people and took no fee,” said Lee Hull, a former Platte County Circuit Court judge. “He took care of some people outside of the law practice. He would help some folks he thought needed help whether financially or in some other way. And I never, never heard of Jim seeking accolades or credit for that. In fact, I’d guess that others did not know of that outside of those who were effected.”

Born in 1928, Farley graduated from Parkville High School in 1945 and went on to earn his law degree from the University of Missouri in 1952. Shortly after, he set up his law practice in Farley, Mo. — founded by his great, great grandfather in 1850 — and remained there until 1991 when he moved to Main Street in Platte City.

Farley, a noted Democrat, didn’t retire until January of 2014, but his office never left Platte County. And he never truly stopped working in law.

“The last case we worked on together was over the summer of 2014 and into the fall,” said Abe Shafer, a retired Platte County Circuit Court judge who continues to practice law on a limited basis. “Jim approached the last case we had together with the same energy and enthusiasm and dedication as he did the first case. Jim never lost his enthusiasm. He never lost his passion for the law.

“Although he announced his retirement, he continued to assist his former clients and fellow attorneys when called upon. Jim didn’t officially retire until he closed his eyes for the final time. His legacy he leaves is that of a dedicated lawyer, author, master politician and loyal family man and friend. Jim always wanted to do it right, whatever the task.”

Hull and others noted that Farley often spent seven days a week at the office for much of his career. His expertise areas included probate, estates, contracts, land and land use, and he preferred to do his own research into the law when possible, rather than depending on staff, paralegals or associates.

“He had an active mind and obviously a pretty detail-oriented mind in regard to his profession and in general. He was a very smart man,” Hull said.

Upon retirement when asked what he missed most, Farley said, “The people I have represented, worked with and known over the years.”

Political contributions included 19 terms as a member of the Platte County Democratic Central Committee — four as chairman and one as treasurer — four terms on the Missouri State Democratic Committee and five terms on the 6th District Democratic District Committee. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention five times and served an unexpired term in the Missouri House of Representatives in 1956 but did not seek reelection because of other responsibilities.

“At one time, Jim was known throughout not only Platte County, but the state of Missouri and even Washington, D.C. as a political powerhouse,” said local attorney Tammy Glick, who shared office space with Farley beginning in 1996. “I think history will show Jim Farley not only recognized growth in Platte County, but he embraced it and was ultimately very influential in it.”

Farley was also a founding member of the Missouri Rural Water Association, and beginning in 1963, he helped incorporate 24 water supply districts that serviced towns and rural areas without public water systems. Upon his retirement, he still represented ten districts that he had incorporated 35 to 50 years earlier.

“He wrote the law that still governs them today,” Hull said.

Many credit his work with allowing those rural areas to have their current access to clean water supplies.

“Each of us should say, ‘Thank you, Jim,’ when we have our first drink of water in the morning,” Shafer said of himself and other residents of rural areas that were affected by Farley’s work with water districts.

In addition to his distinguished legal and political career, Farley became known as a Civil War historian and went on to write a pair of books. “Forgotten Valor,” a history of the First Missouri Confederate Calvary that his great grandfather served on, was published in 1996. He co-wrote “Missouri Rebels Remembered — John Thrailkill and Silas M. Gordon” with his son Wallace “Son” Hendrix.

Farley also wrote “Gone But Not Forgotten” — an account of the 1900 murder of his great grandfather James Wallace and Platte County sheriff John Dillingham — and published a pair of photograph books.

A noted fan of athletics, Farley saw his first Missouri football game in 1939 and held season tickets for 56 years. He attended 60 consecutive Missouri-Kansas rivalry football games, starting in 1952 until the series came to its current hiatus after the 2011 matchup. He also owned Royals season tickets for a number of years and served as a volunteer assistant coach for Platte County High School in the first year of its baseball program.

“He always stayed busy. He was always engaged,” Shafer said. “He found time to contribute to his various interests, and I’m not sure how he did that.”

Farley loved hunting dogs but not necessarily just for hunting. He owned 10 Brittany spaniels during his life, a breed often known for its bird hunting abilities, and they often could be seen at his office or being walked around town.

The importance of the dogs can be summed up in a story, possibly embellished but likely not.

One of the dogs managed to escape from a local trainer, and the search party for the wayward canine included lawyers, judges, doctors and a pilot who flew a small plane over the search area. Eventually, the dog was located and brought back home.

“Of course, I’m not young,” Hull said, “but I’m not going to see his like again.”

Farley is survived by his wife of 33 years Sue Farley and daughter Susan Farley along with a lengthy list of extended family members and close friends.