David Blaylock grew up in Smalltown, America. Oxford, Miss., to be exact, on the historic square in his father’s shop, Blaylock Drug Store, the current home of Square Books.
As a boy, he worked in the drug store yet realized early on that “it was not what I was cut out for.” His interests lay elsewhere, 250 miles north in the hallways of Vanderbilt University where he studied history and English.
“In small towns, the lawyers were respected members of the community who seemed to be doing a lot of good for people and helping people, and I just thought it was a good profession to follow,” Blaylock said.
He followed that profession back home and the University of Mississippi School of Law where he graduated in 1964. Having graduated, he left Courthouse Square in Oxford for Court Square in Memphis where he saw more opportunity for experience and space to spread his wings.
“The oldest lawyer in Oxford at that time was maybe 50 years old, so I didn’t see much room opening up,” he laughs. “Oxford was a lot different then, it was a lot smaller and wasn’t growing all that much.”
In Memphis shortly after graduation, Blaylock took up practice with Robert Udelsohn, a partnership that lasted more than 30 years. With Udelsohn, he worked in the areas of commercial law and bankruptcy, but it wasn’t an epiphany or calling, necessarily, that led him to this corner of the legal profession.
“That’s what he (Udelsohn) was doing, so that’s what I did,” Blaylock said. “When you start out, you do whatever you’re told to do just like any other job, you do whatever the opportunities are and that’s what I did.”
These are, however, areas that he enjoys and is challenged by, and what he still practices to this day, now with Glankler Brown PLLC.
Last month, Blaylock was named a Fellow of the Memphis Bar Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Memphis Bar Association.
“The Bar Foundation does a lot of good work, it raises money and devotes it to law-related matters like (Memphis Area) Legal Services, it makes grants to deserving institutions and nonprofits,” he said.
The Memphis Bar Foundation, in addition to raising funds, promotes social justice and legal education, and encourages professionalism among members of the Bar.
“I haven’t really developed a lot of other interests, so I keep coming in. ... There’s nobody around to really tell you to stop.”
At 72, Blaylock still enjoys the practice of law.
“I haven’t really developed a lot of other interests, so I keep coming in,” he said, adding, “you know, there’s nobody around to really tell you to stop, either. That’s just fact in the practice of law.”
Blaylock has seen the areas of commercial and bankruptcy law change throughout the years. There are more bankruptcies now as a percentage of the population and “sometimes businesses use it just as a matter of management, there’s very little stigma to it anymore.”
The Memphis Bar Foundation is “a good organization to be associated with,” he says and notes that there are a lot more lawyers these days than when he began practicing, and that younger lawyers tend to be involved in pro bono and philanthropic work from the get-go.
“When I started practicing, most lawyers did that kind of work but it was not through an institution or an organization, it was just private practitioners doing good work,” he said.
The father of two daughters – one a teacher and the other, following in a generation’s removed footsteps, a pharmacist – is married to Betty, a recently retired librarian with the History Department of the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library.
With nearly 50 years of legal experience behind him, the small-town boy grown up would advise those just finishing law school and working to pass the bar, in addition to working hard and doing community service, to “never forget the basic morality and ethics that you learned from your Sunday school or religious upbringing or your parents, never forget that, never let it slip.”