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Posted on: July 19, 2017

Longtime attorney, ex-judge dies at 78

Former Greenwood City Judge and City Attorney Luke Schissel was remembered by friends and colleagues today as a smart man whose dedication to the city was unflappable.

Mr. Schissel, an Iowa native who came to Greenwood in the early 1970s and practiced law in the city for some 40 years, died Tuesday at Covington County Hospital in Collins. He was 78.

A graduate of University of Southern Mississippi with a double major in mathematics and physics, Mr. Schissel maintained a lifelong passion for the school and was twice given USM’s Meritorious Service Award, first in 1993 and then in 2008.

He was president of Southern’s Alumni Association in 1978-79 and was national president of Kappa Sigma fraternity, the nation’s largest social fraternity, from 1983 to 1985.

Upon graduating from USM? in 1964, Mr. Schissel worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for a time before attending law school at University of Mississippi.

He set up his law practice in Greenwood after that and mentored many attorneys in the community, including Wallie Stuckey, who partnered with Mr. Schissel for five years.

“He was a great mentor and a good lawyer who cared about his clients a great deal,” Stuckey said.

“He was always a gentleman. He was honest. Whatever he said he was going to do, he did. The loss to the legal community with his passing is great.”

Ward 1 City Councilman Johnny Jennings lived across the street from Mr. Schissel for many years. Jennings said that when he first ran for office 24 years ago, Mr. Schissel, who was city attorney at the time, took him under his wing and gave him useful advice about being a public servant.

“He always had a great bit of wisdom about him,” Jennings said. “And with a humorous touch. He was a very bright man, so intelligent.

“And he had a full body laugh, an infectious laugh. He was a big guy, so that was a big laugh!”

Mayor Carolyn McAdams expressed her gratitude for Mr. Schissel’s counsel over the years.

“I really admired Luke. Anything you asked of him, he was willing to help,” McAdams said.

Over her years as mayor, Mr. Schissel frequently stopped in to visit and talk, the mayor said.

“He talked about his love of Greenwood,” she said.

“You know, you just hate it when your older generation, your wiser people, leave. It’s very encouraging to have their advice.”

Mr. Schissel held court frequently over a period of several years with two of his best friends: former Greenwood mayor Harry Smith, now deceased, and Richard Moss.

The three met for coffee every morning upstairs in the cafe at Turnrow Book Co., Moss said. He and Mr. Schissel were also friends in Rotary Club and always shared a table.

“I loved listening to Harry and Luke spar verbally,” Moss said. “It was entertaining. And Luke was very knowledgeable on any subject that came up.”

Moss said Mr. Schissel still subscribed to his hometown newspaper from Decorah, Iowa, and shared it with his friends up until just a few years ago.

In law circles, at the city and among friends, everyone agreed that Mr. Schissel’s contributions to Greenwood were significant.

“He was a cornerstone for his generation in the Greenwood community,”?Moss said.

A memorial service for Mr. Schissel will be held later, grandson William Browning said. In the meantime, the family requests that donations be made in his memory to the Luke Schissel Scholarship Fund at the University of Southern Mississippi. Donations may be sent to USM, 118 College Drive, Box 5210, Hattiesburg, MS 39408.
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