Law is the right career for Michelle D. Easterling. The West Point partner in the firm of Edwards, Storey, Marshall, Helveston & Easterling chose the legal profession while growing up in Pearlington and can’t imagine doing anything else.
“What I’m doing now truly satisfies me,” she said. “I chose a career in law for several reasons.”
Easterling elaborates on those reasons. Her father was in law enforcement in Hancock County before operating his own trucking business and saw a lot of action from his location on Old Highway 90 that connected the Gulf Coast to New Orleans. “As a child, I enjoyed hearing stories of his days as the star witness for the prosecution,” she recalls. “In fifth grade, I traveled by sheriff’s cruiser to a federal courthouse in New Orleans where I testified on behalf of the prosecution in an interstate kidnapping case.
“Later, while attending Millsaps College, I worked at the Secretary of State’s Office and developed an interest in elections and voter issues. I also frequently observed the Legislature in session. Walking land patents over to the Attorney General’s Office was another link.”
She’s also had experience serving as a special master in Clay County Chancery Court, as City of West Point municipal judge and is currently serving as interim Clay County prosecuting attorney and recently qualified to run for this post in next November’s special election.
As an attorney, Easterling enjoys being able to help people every day. “Whether I’m trying to help someone through the difficulties of divorce, finalizing an adoption, settling an estate, working out the details of a real estate transaction, pursuing a claim on behalf of an injured employee or defending a business owner from a trip and fall, good legal advice is always in demand and it’s a great feeling to be able to guide others through the process,” she said.
“The law exists to ensure the humanity of those who might otherwise be taken advantage of. However, the law also has to make sure those who conduct business in an honest and forthright manner aren’t made the victims of frivolous lawsuits. That’s part of the reason it means so much to me that justice is blind. It has to be applied fairly to all people in all circumstances, and there are so many gray areas.”
This busy attorney, office holder, wife and mother finds time for community involvement. Another community leader and fellow communicant of the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, J. Dwight Dyess, says Easterling is an outstanding leader and counselor. “As a bank president and Army officer, I know good leadership,” Dyess, who serves as BancorpSouth President in West Point, said. “Michelle was critical to the reorganization of our local economic development organization, the Growth Alliance. With Michelle’s leadership and legal knowledge, she ensured that the changes to the then-existing entity were lawful and approved by the membership in accordance with our bylaws.”
Easterling and her husband, Thomas Easterling, an English teacher at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science in Columbus, moved to West Point in 1998. They immediately became active in their church and other organizations as a way to get to know people. “That ulterior motive notwithstanding, working with a variety of organizations has become a reflection of the kind of person I aim to be – the sort of person who truly cares about the people around her and who wants to make a difference in the community,” she said.
She says it’s impossible to choose her favorites among the organizations with which she’s involved. However, the three that have been the most rewarding for her are her church, the Community Growth Alliance and the West Point Rotary Club. “The Episcopal Church in West Point is small in numbers but mighty in heart,” she says. “The Growth Alliance is the organization that promotes economic and community development for West Point and Clay County. The Rotary Club consistently works behind the scenes to make sure local needs are addressed and local heroes get the praise they deserve.”
A graduate of Millsaps College and the University of Mississippi School of Law, Easterling is a member of numerous professional organizations and has received professional and civic awards. These accolades include Phi Beta Kappa member, Columbus Air Force Base Honorary Commander and Mississippi Bar Women in the Profession Committee Trailblazer.
When not working, she enjoys playing whiffle ball in the back yard with her two sons, Grayson, 12, and Jack, 8, gardening, reading fiction and going to spin class at the gym. “I’m so proud of my family,” she said. “Thomas is an inspiring teacher, wonderful husband and dedicated father. Grayson is currently in love with every sport he can play, and Jack is even more competitive than his brother and has a mathematical bent of mind that’s almost foreign to the rest of us in the family.”
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