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All in the family

For the Richardsons, the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law has helped spawn generations of legislators and lawyers.

By Laura Fenton


Mark Richardson didn’t know that registering for the night program at the University of Memphis’ Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law would set a new standard for his family, but it did.

Within the immediate Richardson family, there are eight U of M undergraduate and graduate degrees, five of which are from the law school. Six family members are lawyers, and Mark (JD ’80) and his son, Todd (BLS ’04, JD ’07), both have been elected to the state legislature.

“I chose Memphis State because it was the only school at the time that offered a night school,” Mark says. “The program gave my family the opportunity to go to law school at night, to work full time during the day and for my wife to be able to stay at home with my son while I was finishing my education. If it had not been for Memphis State and the night program, I might very well have chosen to do something else.”

Mark’s brother, Guy (JD ’80), graduated from the U of M law school as did his other son, Chris (JD ’08), and Chris’ future wife, Anna Michael Richardson, (BA ’04, JD ’08). Another brother, Matt, went to law school elsewhere.

Mark was the first family member to graduate from the Humphreys School of Law, beating Guy by six months. He also set another precedent when he was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives, District 154, in 1990. Todd followed suit last fall when he won the same seat.

“He gave me a lot of advice and he tried to warn me about what it takes to do this kind of job and what you have to give up,” Todd says. “He was willing to help, but didn’t apply any pressure one way or the other.

“Watching his experience there, I got a sense that people who get into public service can do some good. Seeing value in getting engaged in the political process, I think, makes you a lot more willing to go through what you have to go through to get involved in it.”

Todd says his job as a state representative is to pass legislation while looking out for the people in his district.

“One of the things I was struck by, after visiting with thousands and thousands of voters in the Poplar Bluff area, is how passionately they feel about issues facing the state and country.

“By virtue of the resources of this office, I can pick up the phone and help them with a problem in a matter of days, not months. I really value that part of the job as much as anything.”

He is intent on staying focused on the issues.

“So often you see people who run for office who are constantly concerned about getting re-elected and constantly concerned about what job they are going to run for next. They sort of lose sight of doing the job they were elected to do. One of the things I want to be very cognizant of is making sure that I am living up to the promises I made to the people of Butler County.”

Todd’s wife, Amber (MS ’03), is also a U of M alumnus with a degree in counseling. His brother, Chris, says attending law school was a “natural” choice.

“[Being a lawyer] was always what I saw myself doing because I never really experienced much else,” Chris says. “Everybody I knew when I was growing up was in the practice of law. When you’re exposed to something that much, obviously you become interested in it if for no other reason than to keep up with those around you.”

Chris recalls spending summers as a youth at his father’s office.

“I would finish swim practice then walk over to my dad’s workplace. I would spend the day in the law office in my swimming trunks while my dad visited with clients.”

Todd Richardson, representative for the Missouri House for District 154, is one of six lawyers in his family and holds two of the eight University of Memphis degrees in his family.
Todd Richardson, representative for the Missouri House for District 154, is one of six lawyers in his family and holds two of the eight University of Memphis degrees in his family.

Mark says he did his best to educate Todd and Chris about the law profession, including things they might not be taught in a classroom. He says that during his 30 years of law experience, he learned the essential life lesson of balancing work and relationships with family and clients both in and out of the courtroom.

“If you don’t learn that lesson at an early stage in your career, it will just destroy you personally, emotionally and professionally,” Mark says. “I have seen young attorneys come out of law school and not learn that and it just about burns them out on the practice of law because they haven’t been able to separate themselves from the clients who they are representing.”

With so many lawyers in the family, holiday gatherings can be interesting.

“When you live with a family of lawyers, simple things like family dinner can turn into a debate,” Chris says. “I grew up having to defend my position on issues. When I got to high school, [I remember a debate] about what the book The Old Man and the Sea meant — it was a huge family debate over dinner.”

Todd’s wife, Amber, feels like a lawyer during these discussions even though she doesn’t have a law degree.

“By the time they all finished law school, I felt like I was a lawyer,” Amber says. “I knew about every one of the landmark cases they were studying.”

Being surrounded by lawyers has taught her to confidently argue her opinions.

“You have to learn how to hold your own and you have to be able to argue very defensively because that’s what they’re trained to do,” she says.

If not for the U of M, the Richardson family might be different.

“The University of Memphis presented the same opportunity for me as it did for my dad and his friends a generation earlier,” Todd said. “And that was the ability to get a world-class education at a reasonable cost and do it in a place that was still close to my hometown and home state of Missouri.”

With every policy Todd helps create for Missouri, he always thinks back to his time at the U of M where he worked as the government and community relations assistant for the Office of Government Relations.

“I was really influenced a lot by my experience in Tennessee, particularly seeing the need to give institutions flexibility to do what they need to do in their particular circumstances,” he says. “I saw the U of M as being a unique place and a place where we’re able to bring a lot of different types of students together and still provide a world-class education.”

Todd is also a member of the Missouri Higher Education Committee, which helps craft the policies for the higher education systems in Missouri.

Chris is now employed as in-house staff council for Permanent General Assurance Corp. while Anna works in the Tennessee legislature in Nashville. Mark lives in Poplar Bluff with his wife, Kathy, and is an attorney with the firm Edmundson, Richardson, Innes and Warren.

Todd, with his legislative duties, divides his time between Poplar Bluff and the capitol in Jefferson City. He and Amber have a 2-year-old son, Sawyer, who aspires to be Space Ranger, a comic book science fiction hero. But if family tradition has anything to do with it, another Richardson may one day be practicing law.Mark Richardson didn’t know that registering for the night program at the University of Memphis’ Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law would set a new standard for his family, but it did.

Within the immediate Richardson family, there are eight U of M undergraduate and graduate degrees, five of which are from the law school. Six family members are lawyers, and Mark (JD ’80) and his son, Todd (BLS ’04, JD ’07), both have been elected to the state legislature.

“I chose Memphis State because it was the only school at the time that offered a night school,” Mark says. “The program gave my family the opportunity to go to law school at night, to work full time during the day and for my wife to be able to stay at home with my son while I was finishing my education. If it had not been for Memphis State and the night program, I might very well have chosen to do something else.”

Mark’s brother, Guy (JD ’80), graduated from the U of M law school as did his other son, Chris (JD ’08), and Chris’ future wife, Anna Michael Richardson, (BA ’04, JD ’08). Another brother, Matt, went to law school elsewhere.

Mark was the first family member to graduate from the Humphreys School of Law, beating Guy by six months. He also set another precedent when he was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives, District 154, in 1990. Todd followed suit last fall when he won the same seat.

“He gave me a lot of advice and he tried to warn me about what it takes to do this kind of job and what you have to give up,” Todd says. “He was willing to help, but didn’t apply any pressure one way or the other.

“Watching his experience there, I got a sense that people who get into public service can do some good. Seeing value in getting engaged in the political process, I think, makes you a lot more willing to go through what you have to go through to get involved in it.”

Todd says his job as a state representative is to pass legislation while looking out for the people in his district.

“One of the things I was struck by, after visiting with thousands and thousands of voters in the Poplar Bluff area, is how passionately they feel about issues facing the state and country.

“By virtue of the resources of this office, I can pick up the phone and help them with a problem in a matter of days, not months. I really value that part of the job as much as anything.”

He is intent on staying focused on the issues.

“So often you see people who run for office who are constantly concerned about getting re-elected and constantly concerned about what job they are going to run for next. They sort of lose sight of doing the job they were elected to do. One of the things I want to be very cognizant of is making sure that I am living up to the promises I made to the people of Butler County.”

Todd’s wife, Amber (MS ’03), is also a U of M alumnus with a degree in counseling. His brother, Chris, says attending law school was a “natural” choice.

“[Being a lawyer] was always what I saw myself doing because I never really experienced much else,” Chris says. “Everybody I knew when I was growing up was in the practice of law. When you’re exposed to something that much, obviously you become interested in it if for no other reason than to keep up with those around you.”

Chris recalls spending summers as a youth at his father’s office.

“I would finish swim practice then walk over to my dad’s workplace. I would spend the day in the law office in my swimming trunks while my dad visited with clients.”

Mark says he did his best to educate Todd and Chris about the law profession, including things they might not be taught in a classroom. He says that during his 30 years of law experience, he learned the essential life lesson of balancing work and relationships with family and clients both in and out of the courtroom.

“If you don’t learn that lesson at an early stage in your career, it will just destroy you personally, emotionally and professionally,” Mark says. “I have seen young attorneys come out of law school and not learn that and it just about burns them out on the practice of law because they haven’t been able to separate themselves from the clients who they are representing.”

With so many lawyers in the family, holiday gatherings can be interesting.

“When you live with a family of lawyers, simple things like family dinner can turn into a debate,” Chris says. “I grew up having to defend my position on issues. When I got to high school, [I remember a debate] about what the book The Old Man and the Sea meant — it was a huge family debate over dinner.”

Todd’s wife, Amber, feels like a lawyer during these discussions even though she doesn’t have a law degree.

“By the time they all finished law school, I felt like I was a lawyer,” Amber says. “I knew about every one of the landmark cases they were studying.”

Being surrounded by lawyers has taught her to confidently argue her opinions.

“You have to learn how to hold your own and you have to be able to argue very defensively because that’s what they’re trained to do,” she says.

If not for the U of M, the Richardson family might be different.

“The University of Memphis presented the same opportunity for me as it did for my dad and his friends a generation earlier,” Todd said. “And that was the ability to get a world-class education at a reasonable cost and do it in a place that was still close to my hometown and home state of Missouri.”

With every policy Todd helps create for Missouri, he always thinks back to his time at the U of M where he worked as the government and community relations assistant for the Office of Government Relations.

“I was really influenced a lot by my experience in Tennessee, particularly seeing the need to give institutions flexibility to do what they need to do in their particular circumstances,” he says. “I saw the U of M as being a unique place and a place where we’re able to bring a lot of different types of students together and still provide a world-class education.”

Todd is also a member of the Missouri Higher Education Committee, which helps craft the policies for the higher education systems in Missouri.

Chris is now employed as in-house staff council for Permanent General Assurance Corp. while Anna works in the Tennessee legislature in Nashville. Mark lives in Poplar Bluff with his wife, Kathy, and is an attorney with the firm Edmundson, Richardson, Innes and Warren.

Todd, with his legislative duties, divides his time between Poplar Bluff and the capitol in Jefferson City. He and Amber have a 2-year-old son, Sawyer, who aspires to be Space Ranger, a comic book science fiction hero. But if family tradition has anything to do with it, another Richardson may one day be practicing law.

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