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Sunday, Sep. 25, 2016

Respected judge closes the book on lengthy career

Monday, January 21, 2013

SEMO News Service Photo/ Chris Kaiser Mrs. Patt Sharp, wife of the Honorable Judge Stephen Sharp, right, admires her husband's portrait as it hangs in the courtroom at the Dunklin County Courthouse. A plaque also commemorates Sharp's service to the State of Missouri. (Right) A close-up image of the portrait, created by artist Joe Craig. Judge Sharp officially retired from the bench on Dec. 31, 2012. He held the title of Presiding Circuit Judge for the 35th District of Missouri for the past 22 years.
Judge Stephen R. Sharp, who went into retirement Jan. 1, 2013, has served as Presiding Circuit Judge of the 35th Judicial Circuit -- which includes Dunklin and Stoddard Counties -- for a longer time than any of his predecessors. This includes the well respected, and dear friend to the Sharps, the late Honorable Judge Flake McHaney.

Judge Sharp's retirement may have came as a shock to many residents in the region. Since more than one court judge is appointed, many residents didn't realize that he wasn't on the ballot last November. Sharp's reason for retirement is not necessarily because he was ready to lay aside the robe and gavel, but in the state of Missouri, all judges must retire at the age of 70. They can, however, if they wish, apply for senior status which permits them to continue hearing cases on a limited basis, which Mr. Sharp intends on doing.

Sharp, a native of Gideon, Mo., is the son of Byron Sharp and Alice Rhodes Sharp. His father owned a local grocery store in Gideon and his mother was a Postmaster. Mr. Sharp has always had an interest for law. He recalled that even as a child, that law was what caught his interest. His grandfather, O.R. Rhodes, served as the Presiding Judge for the county court in New Madrid County. Today, the county court would be known as the County Commission and the Presiding Judge would be referred as Presiding Commissioner.

"I started going to the courthouse with my granddad in New Madrid when I was six [or] seven years old," Mr. Sharp said. At an early age, Mr. Sharp also became very interested in politics and the political process. He remembered his grandfather being an acquaintance of Harry Truman, who at one time was the presiding commissioner of the Jackson County Commission.

He attended Southeast Missouri State University's undergraduate school, then addended law school at Memphis State in Memphis, Tenn., where he studied law for less than a year, before receiving a draft notice requesting his service in Vietnam. After serving two years in the war, he returned to Memphis University to complete his final two years of law school. While in college, he was a part of Law Review -- "a big honor" that is based on academics -- where he wrote articles on various aspects of the law.

In 1965, while at Southeast Missouri State University, he met his future wife, Patt. Their first date was at a fraternity Christmas party. The following year they were engaged to be married, and did so in 1967. After graduating from law school, he began to look for a position as a lawyer all over Southeast Missouri. "I interviewed in Cape Girardeau, Sikeston, Kennett and here and there," Mr. Sharp said. "I wanted to come back home, and I was extremely fortunate that I was offered a job and took the job with Flake McHaney."

Mr. McHaney's office was located on the second floor of the Bank of Kennett building, where Mr. Sharp served as a practicing lawyer from 1972 to 1978.

In 1979, he was sworn in as Prosecuting Attorney, where he continued to serve for six years. While serving as prosecutor, Mr. Sharp was one of the first judges in the state of Missouri to enforce Child Support, he created a bad check program, and also argued for the Missouri Supreme Court. After his many accomplishments thus far, he then ran for Missouri State Senate in 1984, also the year he was elected. Judge Sharp served in the State Senate until 1988. In 1990 he became the Circuit Judge of the 35th Judicial Circuit, where he served for the past 22 years. Mr. Sharp spoke of the many people who he most graciously appreciated for their hard work.

"It's been my pleasure to work with some of the best lawyers. I believe in the state of Missouri, in both counties, both as an attorney and later on as a judge," Mr. Sharp said.

Just to list a few of the colleagues that he spoke of: his different secretaries over the years, his most current secretary is Charitie Jones; Dunklin County Clerk, Paula Gargas, and Stoddard County Clerk, Sherry Disney; Dunklin County Sheriff Bob Holder and Stoddard County Sheriff, Carl Hefner and their organizations; Court Reporter, Leiann Odom, who Sharp described as "one of the best court reporters in the state of Missouri," who has been working with Mr. Sharp for the past 21 years; and many other County officials in both Dunklin County and Stoddard County; as well as the public and their support over the years.

Aside from law, music is also very important to Mr. Sharp, having played drums for several years. He has performed with well known artists including Charlie Rich, Jeannie C. Riley, Jerry Foster and Bill Rice; as well as local musicians such as Narvel Felts and Joe Keene. In his spare time, Mr. Sharp enjoys hunting, fishing, horseback riding, and food and cooking.

In honor of his commitment to the State of Missouri and to recognize the service that he has dedicated to the court of law for the past 22 years as judge, a portrait of Mr. Sharp, created by artist Joe Craig, has been displayed inside of the courtroom on the second floor of the Dunklin County Courthouse.

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