Clay Purdom, director and shareholder with Martin, Tate, Morrow & Marston PC, says he comes from a “numbers family.”
His father and sister are both physicists, and his grandfather was one of the first certified public accountants when the formal licensing process first began.
“He lived in Louisville and I think his CPA number was 9 and mine is about 17,000 and something,” Purdom said.
Purdom was born in Owensboro, Ky., and attended the University of Mississippi for a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s degree in taxation. He attained his CPA license and came to Memphis to work for accounting firm KPMG LLP.
Purdom went back to Ole Miss for his law degree but then returned to Memphis, his adopted hometown.
“I like the feel of it,” he said. “It’s kind of a big small town and it felt very welcoming, the people did.”
Purdom, who had clerked at Martin Tate during summers after his second year of law school, was offered a full-time position in May 2005. He practices mainly in the areas of commercial real estate and lending, with some tax planning and property tax appeal work as well.
Commercial real estate work involves much more due diligence than that of residential, and often the process to closing can take several months instead of weeks as in residential, giving Purdom the chance to work closely with longtime clients that might be in Tennessee or Mississippi, or anywhere across the country.
“There are times when it’s very active and times when it’s not as active, especially in ’08 and ’09,” he said. “Those were tough times but you have a whole lot of other issues that you’re working on when there are tough times.
“When my clients are successful, it’s definitely more rewarding, but there are also times where you’re doing everything for your clients to help them weather the storm and work through a tough economic climate.”
The commercial real estate world is one that Purdom finds challenging and the work immensely enjoyable.
“There’s always something new, there are hardly ever two sets of facts that are identical so it keeps you on your toes,” he said.
Knowledge gleaned from law school and through working with Martin Tate has been called upon for other aspects of his life as well, such as his volunteer work with the Blue Streak Scholarship Fund benefiting the Jubilee Schools of the Catholic Diocese. Involved with the board for five years, he works to garner sponsorships for the fundraising arm of the schools.
“It makes me feel as good as anything charitable I’ve worked on,” Purdom said. “I think the Jubilee Schools are a really good system that provides a great education for inner-city kids that wouldn’t have the ability to pay for private school.”
The Kentucky native is also a fan of the blues and is on the executive committee and treasurer for the Blues Foundation of Memphis.
In the foundation’s effort to build a first-class blues museum in Memphis, Purdom has been instrumental in lining up lending options and procuring property on South Main, across the street from the National Civil Rights Museum, for the museum’s home. The goal of $3 million toward the effort is a little over halfway realized.
“We’re pretty far along, it’s about to turn into a reality which I think will be very good for Memphis and blues music in general,” Purdom said. “Memphis is the home of the blues and we need to make sure we have a true Blues Hall of Fame destination where people can visit.”
In addition to working with the Blues Foundation and Jubilee Schools, Purdom was recently elected to the board of Memphis Area Legal Services, the organization providing legal services to low income and the elderly in Southwestern Tennessee.
When not delving into the contracts and details of commercial real estate or working to raise money for local music and better schools, Purdom spends time with wife, Hope, and twin 12-year-old stepdaughters, Hannah and Emily.