Special to The Greenup Beacon
Vacuum cleaners, a paring knife, and a pellet gun.
Margaret Blackwell King, respected local paralegal for more than three decades, the majority with Flatwoods attorney Michael Wilson, has decided to retire from the profession and seek purpose in other areas.
Margaret, who graduated in 1977 where she served as Russell High School field commander both her junior and senior years, did not set out to be a paralegal. After working at Beltone for a brief period, she then worked for a couple of law firms in Boyd County. A chance meeting led to landing a job with the Mike Wilson law firm.
“There was a case involving, of all things, vacuum cleaners, that Mike Wilson and my law firm were working on together.
“I mentioned to Mike I was leaving my job soon and would be looking for work.”
“I knew Margaret a little from high school but I knew her brothers Lindsey and Jack much better,” said Wilson.
“Both were good guys and both were off-the-chart smart so I imagined their sister would be a good one too. I was right.
“The whole interview, offer and acceptance took about 10 seconds. She stuck around for the next 28 years.”
“If you want an interesting career, work in a law office,” said Margaret.
“Never a dull moment.
“The best thing about working in a law office though is the people you meet. I have enjoyed getting to know our clients and I have become good friends with many of them.
“Corliss Tackett, whom I worked with for over 20 years, Mary Mell, Linda Arthur and Tanya Pullin were all friends I made through the law office,” she said.
“She and my dad (Bud Wilson) too,” Wilson added. “Margaret and he were buddies. After my dad died in 1998, we noticed someone other than the family was decorating his grave. She never told us but we found out later it was Margaret.”
Margaret grew up on Belfont Street in downtown Russell, one of six children (Ralph Wadkins, Tom Wadkins, Carla Wadkins, Lindsey Blackwell, Jack Blackwell and Margaret) raised by single mom Rosemary Blackwell.
Margaret enjoyed the quintessential downtown Russell experience.
“From playing on the Russell Central playground to shopping at Estill Burgess’ grocery store, I did it all. We didn’t have much, but my childhood was very rich.”
Margaret took two things from her childhood into her career: she took her mother’s work ethic and empathy for those less fortunate.
“As able as she is as a paralegal, her gift always has been her ability to connect with clients, especially those who are last, lost, least, left out or looked over,” Wilson noted, “our clients could tell she cared about them.”
And the clients cared back. Dozens have come back over the years just to catch up.
One case stands out.
“We represented Denver Fore from the Chillicothe area, who lost his infant daughter in a horrific crash involving a semi-tractor trailer driver who ran a red light.
“The little girl had a brother just a few years older and Denver and his wife, Tina, have stayed in touch throughout the years, and keep me up to date on how things were going,” Margaret recalls.
Margaret then paused. “The death cases are the hardest.”
Good wishes are beginning to roll in. Morehead State University graduate, Lisa Smith shared, “I was lucky to do my internship in 1989 at the Wilson law office. No one could have had a better, more educational experience than I did. Over the years I have not hesitated to contact Margaret for help and she always comes through. Even this year, it was Margaret who introduced me to former State Representative and now Administrative Law Judge Tanya Pullin, which led to my current position as Judge Pullin’s paralegal. I am a big Margaret fan.”
Carl Pruitt, now an attorney with the Army Corps of Engineers in North Carolina, worked with Margaret for nearly a decade in the law office.
“She is the best. I learned as much about the practice of law from her as I did in law school. Good for her. I wish her the best. Now she can come see me.”
Carl Pruitt’s dad, Carl Sr., was a favorite of Margaret’s as well.
Before becoming the Greenup County Attorney’s paralegal, Brenda Price worked with Margaret for a time at the law office.
“I was new, fresh out of school, and I got lucky and had Margaret be my mentor. She always has been my safety net, I knew she always had my back. And every time I see her or talk to her on the phone, within seconds I am laughing. I have not accepted the fact she is leaving.”
When asked to put into words what Margaret has meant to him, long-time client and Flatwoods businessman Steve Blaine said, “Margie and I go way back, she is one of the finest people I have ever known. She was always kind to my mom and dad. I wish her well.”
So why is a respected paralegal, who is performing at the top of her game, retiring?
“It’s just time,” said King.
Wilson observed, “I think Margaret came to the mirror at the end of the road. Life has been pounding pretty hard on Margaret lately, she had a nephew die too young, her husband passed away after a long fight with cancer on Christmas Day 2014, she lost a sister-in-law suddenly, she had an unfortunate instance with a neighbor and some of her family have health problems, all that and dealing with the issues with clients too. It’s like she is a wash cloth that has been wrung dry.”
Margaret’s position will be filled by Julie Duncan, a life-long resident of Flatwoods. Julie is a 1991 graduate of Russell High School and later received her degree with honors from Morehead State University. She has spent the last few weeks training side-by-side with Margaret.
“Big shoes to fill. I only have known her for a short time but she has made me feel so at ease. I just love her and I will miss her too,“ said Julie.
Margaret has agreed to fill when others take vacation.
But what has been, almost wasn’t.
“I was working in the kitchen one day and cut my finger badly with a paring knife. I went to the Outreach Center for stitches. Turned out I didn’t need stitches but the doctor noted I was over-due for a mammogram. I scheduled in and discovered I had Stage 1 breast cancer. Because I caught it so early, my treatment was not as extensive as it would have been had I waited. That’s why I tell everyone to go get checked. Early detection saved my life 10 years ago.”
Raised at Russell First Baptist, and after a period of time away from church, Margaret found a new worship home at the Advance United Methodist Church in Flatwoods.
A short time later her husband, Dave King, began attending with her and it wasn’t long after that Margaret and Dave were providing a faith-based financial ministry to members of the church.
Dave started and operated the summer free-lunch program at Advance, which is still going strong, and later organized food distributions in the Argillite area.
Dave went through a program where he qualified to be a fill-in speaker and then when a vacancy came open for a pastor at the Argillite United Methodist Church, Dave was called and responded.
Initially only there to fill in until a permanent pastor was found, the congregation grew to love Dave and asked him to take the position full-time.
And he did in what he considered the most rewarding time of his life. And Margaret became something new, a preacher’s wife. Serving until his health failed, at Dave’s service at Advance, the Argillite Church membership was in full attendance.
The help and support the Methodist community has given Margaret over the last few years cannot be over-stated.
Since Dave’s death, his son Travis sees that Margaret lacks for nothing.
Then, in a bizarre development some six months after the death of her husband, Margaret was shot in the knee by a neighbor with his pellet gun.
The neighbor has been charged and is facing trial. Margaret does not want to comment on the case until after the trial but suffice it to say the shooting was the straw that broke the camel’s back when it came to her decision to retire.
“As an employer I am upset and a little panicked to lose her but as her friend I could not be happier for her.
“She has been a blessing not only to my practice but to me personally, and as a result she has been a blessing to my family. My kids refer to her as Aunt Margaret. She threw a sensational bridal shower for my daughter just last month.
“All this makes it very hard to see her go.”
So what are her plans for retirement?
“Sleep late, read and drink a lot of iced tea,” says King with a laugh. Perhaps detailed plans are not what you do when your life has been altered by vacuum cleaners, a paring knife, and a pellet gun.
But Wilson sees her future differently. “Look, check back in a year from now, I bet she will be doing something in her church or something for the under-privileged, or both. I bet I’m right. I’ve known her for a long time.”
Her last day of work is Thursday, July 28, when a retirement reception will be held at the law office located at 1911 Argillite Road, Flatwoods, KY 41139.
Officially, the reception starts at 11 a.m. and ends when Margaret turns the key in the door for the last time.
Everyone is invited, food, drink and tall tales provided. The reception will be live-streamed courtesy of life-long friend Hank Bond.
Cards or Facebook posts would be appreciated.
“But if you can’t make it on the 28th, come by anytime between now and then and see me. Wilson says for the rest of my time here I am allowed to disconnect my ball-and-chain and visit with everyone as much as I want,” Margaret laughed.
The laugh that comes with a good life lived well.
Margaret King, seated, shares conversation and wisdom with Jody Wilson at the Wilson Law Office in Flatwoods.