J.D. Block

Jefferson Davis Block moved his law practice from Cross County to Paragould in 1889. At twenty-eight he had already served a term in the Arkansas House of Representatives (1887-88) and been elected prosecutor for the Second Judicial District (1889). His duties as prosecuting attorney brought him to Greene County, where he met Lena Hicks, the daughter of a pioneer Paragould physician, whom he wooed and married. The date of his move to Paragould is established through the date of his marriage, June 12, 1889.

Mr. Block was a very effective trial lawyer with a charming personality and marvelous memory. He also did a great deal of real estate title work. During the early days of his practice, Mr. Block was a participant in extensive litigation between the United States of America and owners of title to swamp lands in Eastern Greene County. He acquired large farming interests which his family still owns and manages.

As prosecuting attorney, Mr. Block was part of the most dramatic event in the firm's history. He represented an unwed mother in a paternity case. Enraged at the lady and Mr. Block, the putative father walked into Mr. Block's office while Mr. Block and the mother were in conference, pulled a gun, fired one shot at Mr. Block, one shot at the lady, and then turned the gun on himself. The late Joe Coates of Paragould, a teenager at the time, was the second person on the scene. He recalls, "Mr. Block was lucky. He was just nipped in the burr of the ear. The lady was struck in the mouth and had to be taken to the hospital. The man died right in the office."

Following his service as prosecuting attorney, he participated in the formation of the National Bank of Commerce. NBC's main competitor, First National Bank, was organized only three months prior to Mr. Block's arrival in Paragould. The two banks later merged to form the current First National Bank of Paragould--the oldest business in Greene County. The law firm is the second oldest.

Mr. Block's public service concluded in 1918 when he was chosen as a delegate to the Arkansas Constitutional Convention. After participating in its deliberations for some time, he concluded that nothing constructive was going to come from the Convention and resigned. He was succeeded as a delegate by J.M. Futrell and was correct in his forecast of the ineffectiveness of the convention.

When Mr. Block died in 1929 at the age of sixty-seven, he was serving as National Bank of Commerce's president, and the mayor of Paragould declared a day of public mourning. The Daily Press waxed eloquent in its account of his contributions:

"He had a remarkable faculty for remembering names and faces...and was probably known to more people than any other lawyer in the northeast part of the State...He believed in the practice of his profession on the highest plane and had small consideration for those without due observance of the ethics of their profession."

Mr. Block was a solo practitioner until 1894 when he formed a partnership with Frank Hugh Sullivan, a Paragould attorney who, earlier that year, married Susie Hicks, the sister of Lena Hicks Block.

Mr. Sullivan moved to St. Louis in 1898, where he achieved considerable success as an appellate advocate and a master of the English language. In retirement Mr. Sullivan moved to Biloxi, Mississippi, where he died in 1966 at the age of ninety-seven.