Johnson City attorney Mark Slagle, known to his friends and fellow lawyers as a dedicated, hardworking client advocate who was also devoted to his wife, died late Tuesday in a Dallas hospital while awaiting a double lung transplant.
Slagle’s law partner, Steve Finney, confirmed his friend’s passing and said he holds many great memories of time the two spent together. Finney said, “Mark was a brilliant, brilliant lawyer. He would help people and he was my best friend.”
Slagle, 61, had been at Baylor Medical Center for one month while being treated for an incurable lung disease and waiting for the transplant. He was diagnosed with the disease late last year.
In true Slagle fashion, he was working on cases as recently as 14 hours before his death, according to his long-time paralegal Kim Hagy.
Many attorneys and court personnel in the Tri-Cities were saddened to learn that Slagle — a tall, lean attorney who carried his brown Hartman briefcase everywhere he went — had died.
Everyone who knew him said he was a teacher at heart and always had time to mentor young attorneys.
One of those who worked close with him early in her career, Teresa Nelson, is now an assistant district attorney general in Sullivan County. She worked for Slagle, a 37-year veteran lawyer, as a “copier, subpoena server, or whatever needed to be done” while getting her undergraduate degree, then he hired her as an attorney after law school.
“I told somebody today if I have any good qualities as a lawyer, I can attribute many of those to him,” Nelson said. “He always had the highest level of professionalism and the highest ethical standards.”
“He taught me to think and reason as a lawyer, but to relate to people, to always be respectful of others, of clients, of court personnel, of other attorneys, to advocate hard but to advocate ethically,” she said.
One humorous memory Nelson had was how Slagle “tormented” her when she worked for him as an office assistant by writing her paycheck to someone other than her.
“He was a great mentor, for me and so many others who went through that office. I think that’s one thing he loved to be — a mentor for young lawyers,” Nelson said. “He meant a lot to many people and he affected many, many lives.”
Nelson, like so many other attorneys, said Slagle was completely devoted to his wife, Linda, and the two loved being together and traveling.
Two other younger attorneys, Cliff Corker and Gene Scott, said Slagle was someone they looked up to and often turned to for help or advice on a case.
Corker said he’d recently sent Slagle a text to show support for his condition and received one back with Slagle turning the conversation around to ask about Corker and his family.
Rick Spivey, a Kingsport attorney, said he’s known Slagle for 46 years.
“He was a good man, he loved his wife dearly and he cared about his clients,” Spivey said. “He was a good lawyer, he was fair.”
Assistant District Attorney General Ken Baldwin said he and Slagle met in the late 1970s when Baldwin was starting his private practice.
“He was just the kind of guy you liked right off the bat. You didn’t meet anybody who didn’t like Mark Slagle,” Baldwin said.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys alike said Slagle knew the law and was a “formidable” opponent in the courtroom.
Finney said he’d known Slagle since he became a lawyer in 1996, but only started working for Slagle in 2005. Slagle made Finney his one and only law partner just four years ago.
“I have never met a man who loved his job like Mark Slagle. Mark also loved life,” Finney said.
Slagle apparently worked long hours through the week so he could have the weekend to spend with his wife. Finney said the Slagles spent all their free time together, something he once thought was too much.
“Now, I think maybe they had it right. The bond between them was unbelievable.”
Finney also credited Slagle with giving him the ability to provide for his family.
“But for Mark, my family wouldn’t have benefitted the way (it) has the last eight years,” he said.
Hagy said her boss was a “wealth of knowledge and he wanted to share that knowledge with other lawyers to keep it going.”
Tom Jessee, another attorney who knew Slagle well, said “he was a very, very, very good lawyer who worked hard for his clients. He was always accommodating. No matter how hard you fought on the other side of the table, when you finished it wasn’t personal.”
Slagle’s mark on the law profession isn’t limited to the Tri-Cities. Jessee said he took a phone call from a lawyer near Knoxville who had heard of Slagle’s passing and said Slagle was “a gentle man.”
Jessee said Slagle was “always upbeat,” despite his medical condition.
“I had the good fortune to talk to him about a week ago and he had me laughing,” Jessee said. “The legal profession has lost a role model for everybody.”
Slagle is survived by his wife of 34 years, Linda; daughter, Elizabeth Spurrier and her husband, John; three grandchildren; a brother, Don Slagle and his wife, Judy; numerous extended family and a “boatload of friends,” Finney said.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time.