Every year the Sebastian County Bar Association holds a memorial service for lawyers that have passed away in the previous year. That service is coming up in the next couple of weeks. A mentor and friend of mine is going to be honored that day – and I want to say a few words about him.
Yes it is a cliché. Yes it is overused. But yes, it is appropriate here so I’m going to use it. He was “larger than life.” We hear that phrase used and we know what it means. Trying to put it into words is hard, but we know it when we see it.
If you were around Eddie Christian only a few minutes then you would immediately know that he was truly larger than life. He had a big smile that immediately made you feel welcome – if he liked you. He had a laugh that was always from the belly and genuine. And it always seemed to have a hint of a mischievous child to it. I loved that about him. When he laughed, I laughed, and so did our friends.
I remember my first case against Eddie when I was a young, green lawyer. I was terrified. All the stories about him. All the lore. He was like this mythical leviathan that could not be beaten. Thoughts of impending doom filled my brain. Would he smash me immediately like a fly? Would he play with me like a cat does a mouse before finally putting me out of my misery? Will I see it coming or will I just find myself lying on the floor with the battle already overwith?
Whenever Eddie was on the other side you knew you were in for a fight. Warren Sapp, the former NFL defensive lineman, was once asked about one of the best offensive linemen in the league and what he thought about having to go against him for an entire game. He said, “I have two toolboxes. I bring the little one for most games. But when that dude comes to town you better bring your BIG tool box brother!” That’s how it was with Eddie. Better bring your big toolbox or you might as well not even show up.
For two years I had the honor and privilege of working with Eddie in the same firm. I can tell you that he was as good as they say. Being an attorney is hard and tedious work – and Eddie did all of it. He was passionate about the law and cared about his profession and how he handled it.
Eddie had heart surgery in the late ‘90s. His doctor told him to quit smoking, quit drinking, and stop taking cases that involved going to court. I have to laugh at that last one. Telling Eddie Christian not to go to court is like telling a tiger to not eat meat anymore – ain’t gonna happen.
And nor should it happen. Certain people are put on this Earth to do certain things. And Eddie Christian was put on this Earth to be a trial lawyer – 100%. To do anything different would have been an affront to nature. It would have been against every fiber in his being. It would have been against just about everything he was gifted with.
You always knew where you stood with Eddie. And working with him had its ups and downs just like with anything else. And he did not hand out compliments lightly. One day he told me that he had always been impressed with my work. I don’t think he ever knew how proud that made me or how much impact those words had on me. I will never forget them.
And those that knew Eddie will never forget him. I still expect to see him around the corner at the courthouse. His friends expect to walk in the club and see him there with his drink and his smile. We talk about him from time to time, and its always with a smile or a laugh or both. When his name comes up its always a happy story, and it makes us glad to have known him.
“I rode with him…and I ain’t got no complaints.” - Josey Wales
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