CRYSTAL SPRINGS –It would be difficult to find a family closer than the family of Jim and Mary Kitchens. They’re together in work, community service, play and worship. The three sons — John, Dan and Matt — are attorneys in the law firm of Kitchens and Ellis with offices in Jackson and Crystal Springs. One daughter, Rebecca, is a bookkeeper with the firm. All live in Crystal Springs, including oldest daughter, Suzy, who’s involved with the family activities outside the law firm. The five siblings’ ages range from 28 to 36.
A lawyer for 40 years and a former district attorney, Jim Kitchens says working with his children is a dream come true.
“I thought they’d be turned off by the long hours, especially after seeing me as district attorney with a far-flung district,” he said. “They fought against it, then all of a sudden Mary and I were the only parents with three sons at the Mississippi College School of Law.”
But Kitchens says he loves working with his sons and daughter and learns from them every day. Asked the secret to having responsible children, he says, “Choose their mother very carefully. We’re blessed to have them so close by and all getting along so well; the in-laws, too.”
The youngest of the clan, John Kitchens, says he wouldn’t know how to act without his family around all the time. He’s also not surprised that three of the five children chose law as a profession. “The joking answer is that we wanted job security and we knew mom wouldn’t let dad fire us,” he said. “I can’t imagine choosing anything but law. We get to help people and I feel blessed.”
The group practices varied law including criminal defense, workers’ compensation, personal injury on the plaintiff side and wills and estate planning. Two movies have been made based on Jim Kitchens’ cases and a third is being planned.
The elder Kitchens says he refrains from giving advice to his sons — at least no more than several times a day. “There’s no need for them to reinvent the wheel when I can tell them what I’ve done,” he said. “But, there are new challenges all the time that we learn together.”
Noting that the family believes in long-term relationships, he also commends his “wonderful partner, Margaret Ellis” and the firm’s staff.
John says Jim Kitchens did not push them to enter law. “If he had, all five of us would probably be lawyers,” he said. “It’s our nature to take the path he’s taken and it allows us to stay close.”
The Kitchens family has enduring ties to Crystal Springs where both of Jim Kitchens’ parents served as mayor. They are currently renovating an old packing shed there from the Copiah County town’s heyday as the produce capital of the world. The last remaining produce shed, it was part of the Kitchens Wholesale Company and the original part dates to the late 19th Century. After Jim’s father sold it, the building had several owners. The most recent let it be known he intended to tear it down and replace it with mini storage units.
“We couldn’t have that,” said John Kitchens. “I talked to my brothers about it and we decided to buy it.”
The brothers are currently using part of the 19,000-square-foot building for legal storage and storage for non-profit organizations, including Camp Rainbow and Habitat for Humanity.
Jim Kitchens says the packing shed means a lot to him and he recalls helping his dad re-do it in 1960. “I’m glad we’re involved with restoring it now,” he said. “It will be a unique law office.”
Repairs are nearing completion and include refurbishing of the pine ceiling and flooring. The sons have also collected and framed all the Tomato Festival posters from the town’s annual event to hang in the building’s 11-foot-wide hallway.
“We want to keep the old feel and history of the building,” says John Kitchens. “We’ll be very proud of it. I love it. There’s nowhere else I would rather be.”
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at firstname.lastname@example.org.