Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)


June 18, 2014

50 years a lawyer: Ashland’s Jim Stavros to be honored by KBA

ASHLAND — This year marks Jim Stavros’ golden anniversary in the legal profession and, on Friday, his peers will recognize him for achieving that milestone.

Stavros will be honored by the Kentucky Bar Association for having spent 50 years practicing law. The ceremony will take place Friday in Covington.

“I’m being elevated to senior counsel and lifetime member. What that means is I don’t have to pay dues anymore,” he said with a chuckle.

Stavros said another attorney with local ties, Tom Bunch, who grew up in Ashland and now lives and practices in Lexington, also will be recognized Friday by the KBA for 50 years in the profession.

Stavros, 74, and his brother, George, who’s now retired from practicing law, are the first generation of their family to be born in America. Their father, Pete, emigrated to the U.S. from Greece when he was 12, traveling on the first ship to pass the RMS Titanic after it hit an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage. The elder Stavros taught himself to speak, read and write English for many years ran a restaurant on Winchester Avenue across from the Paramount Arts Center.

Stavros said his father was determined that his sons would have a better life than him, so he encouraged both of them to enter the legal profession. After earning his undergraduate degree from Centre College in Danville, Stavros went to law school at Vanderbilt University and received his juris doctorate in 1964.

Following law school, Stavros joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation, serving as special agent in Cleveland and in New York City. It was a period of upheaval, filled with race riots and anti-Vietnam War protests, and, after three years, Stavros said he decided he wanted to return to Ashland, where he was born and raised, to raise his own family.

A framed photo of the legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover hangs in Stavros’ office as a reminder of his time with the bureau, and Stavros said he considered it a great honor to have served under Hoover.

In 1967, Stavros joined the law form of Diederich, Hermansdorfer and Wilson, where he forged an alliance with one of the partners, Bunyan S. Wilson, that would last for more than 40 years. The two left to start their own firm and practiced together until Wilson’s passing two years ago.

Stavros said Wilson was a friend and a mentor and that he still misses him terribly. Wilson’s name is still a part of Stavros’ firm’s name and is still on the door of the office building Stavros shares with his partners, Sharon Rowsey and Leslie Brown.

Stavros said having two women as law partners is something that would have been unheard of 50 years ago. He said there were only three women in his graduating class at Vandy, and, when he came to Ashland, there was only one female lawyer in town. He cited the number of women in the profession as one of the biggest changes he’s observed since he first started.

One of the factors Stavros credits for his longevity is the type of law he practices, which he says isn’t as taxing or stressful as others and doesn’t require him to spend as much time in court. He said he mostly does bankruptcies, along with wills, power of attorneys and probate work. Rowsey handles the firm’s domestic cases and Brown does criminal-defense work, he said.

In the past, Stavros said he also did a lot of insurance claims work, representing insurance companies in wrongful-death suits and other types of cases.

Stavros and his wife, Suzanne, a long-time investment counselor at Hilliard Lyons, are the parents of a son, Peter, and daughter, Cathy, both of whom followed in their father’s footsteps and became attorneys. Peter practices in Louisville; Cathy in Covington.

In fact, Stavros said the timing Friday’s KBA ceremony was perfect for him and his wife because Friday’s happens to be Cathy’s birthday and two of them will have the opportunity to visit with her and her family before attending the event.

Stavros said he has no intention of retiring anytime soon. He said his health is excellent, which he attributes to his ritual of walking three or four miles a day, including to and from his office most days.

“If I don’t have to be in court, I usually leave my car at home,” he said.

Stavros said one reason retirement doesn’t appeal much to him is “I’m not much for hobbies.” However, he said he does enjoy watching sports on TV, with basketball being a favorite.

He’s a University of Kentucky fan, but he said, almost sheepishly, that he also cheers for one of the Wildcats’ most hated rivals, Duke, as long as they’re not playing UK.

There’s a good reason behind his affection for the Blue Devils, though — his son is a Duke grad.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.

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