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Two new members will be inducted into the Springfield Public Schools this morning. Wednesday, we told you about one of them, Elaine Graham Estes, who graduated from Lincoln High School in 1949 and served as director of the Public Library of Des Moines for 19 years. Now we’ll introduce you to John Dickey who graduated from Springfield Senior High in 1945 and who was a longtime litigator for a major law firm, trying cases around the world.
Dickey says in a way his career chose him. His grandfather and father were lawyers, and his older brother was working on his law degree when Dickey was an undergraduate student at the University of Missouri-Columbia. But he hadn’t decided what he wanted to do. He left after his freshman year to join the U.S. Army where he served in Japan. He returned to MU after his time in the service where he studied political science and history. It was a scholarship to study at Oxford in England that helped him decide what he would do.
"The course that stood out there was, of course, in so-called jurisprudence as they called it, but it was law studies. At that point, having gone that far, it seemed to me I might as well go ahead down that path," he said.
Dickey earned his law degree from Harvard and in 1954 joined the New York City-based Sullivan & Cromwell law firm. His 50+ years there working primarily in commercial litigation took him all over the world and included an argument before the U.S. Supreme Court, which he won.
"And split the Court in various odd ways, so it wasn't liberal/conservative--we were liberals on one side, conservatives on the other side, and you couldn't have predicted how it was going to come out in those terms," he said.
The case focused on the extent of a trustee’s power in bankruptcy to represent classes of creditors. The Supreme Court ruled that the trustee wasn’t there to represent particular classes but to represent the creditors as a whole and that the trustee shouldn’t have a competing interest.
Over the course of his career, Dickey represented several major companies in litigation often against the government such as securities, anti-trust and competition cases
And he conducted litigation before the U.S.-Iranian Claims Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.
He eventually moved to London for 17 years and represented some of England’s largest companies before retiring in 2010 and returning to the Ozarks.
He says he loved every minute of his career.
"The beauty of litigation is that there' s an intellectual challenge to it. There's a personal challenge to it in the sense of trying to understand what is likely to appeal or not appeal to judges sitting in judgement of your client's case," he said.
Dickey called his job fun and says he felt like he would have done it even if he hadn’t got paid. He credits the Springfield Public Schools he attended for laying a good foundation for his future. He’ll be inducted into the Springfield Public Schools Hall of Fame this morning along with Elaine Graham Estes.