“When I left his office back in ‘95 I told him I wasn’t leaving to go against him. I was leaving because I wanted to build a practice like he had done.”
— Prominent Jeffersonville defense attorney David Mosley
on his mentor, attorney Jack Vissing
I remember as a young kid in Jeffersonville there was a guy who walked around in a white suit and I thought he was the most important man in the world. It always made me feel so special when he addressed me. By the time I was in high school he had been the mayor almost all of my life. His name was Richard Vissing.
“He was my hero!” That quote is not from me. It was a loving son’s tribute to his father.
Jack Vissing is a conduit from old school Jeffersonville until last week, when we shared a little time in his soon to be ex-law office at the corner of Court and Watt streets. After more than four decades Jack is hanging up his shingle.
After graduating from Jeffersonville High School he became a school teacher, spending the final years teaching history at JHS. When I asked about his classroom career he told me enjoyed the craft. He knew there was a ceiling to the amount of money he could make. “I wanted to do better than that last salary of $10,500 per year teaching.” So he went to law school.
Jack smiled referencing that year’s earnings, “I have always done better as a lawyer!”
Former attorney Bill Smith offered Vissing his first opportunity to practice law at the old Citizen’s Bank & Trust in the legal department. But it’s been a career of varied experiences.
About one particular case he still remembers the house and the clients. It was an African-American family that had some contracted work on their house. An air conditioner dripped on a 220 amp service that ended up in a tragic house fire. There were three surviving family members.
Vissing was co-counsel with another attorney from Louisville named Jim Gary. The duo were a little bit more than pleased for the family with the outcome. It was the very first million-dollar verdict awarded to victims in the history of Clark County.
Jack describes a law career as something that is kind of a serendipitous adventure. “Your practice sort of chooses you.” He has enjoyed the variety of assignments. “If I had to practice the same kind of law every day, I would just as soon be at Ford putting on lug nuts.”
Realtor Pat Barrow has shared office space and many years assisting Jack in some of his zoning work. It is just the two of them remaining to shut down the office and wrap things up. Before she departed she came into the meeting room to offer a few thoughts. “He has been part of the most interesting jobs I have taken,” Barrow said. “Jack is just a hoot to work with. A great guy — amazing!”
Aside from his successes, Jack does seem a bit haunted remembering some of his clients. “I enjoy trying to find a solution for a problem.” Then perhaps pensively and with a bit of lamentable melancholy he added, “A lot of people get themselves in some kind of trouble and you can’t get them out.”
Jack recalled how he had to recover from an early childhood bout of rheumatic fever and to this day has that heart murmur. At the age of 72 I had to meet with him just before he is going in for some body work in the form of a surgery. His reason for retirement is simply, “My health is getting me down.”
David Mosley offered further tribute to the man who helped begin his legal career. “He also sought to make the office more like “family” than some “blue stocking” law offices that we kind of mocked for the mindset that didn’t account for the humanity in the cases,” Mosley said.
Retirement for Jack won’t be spent in a Lazy Boy. Hopefully, his wife Susan will get to share some of that time along with others who depend upon him so much. He is president of the LifeSpring Foundation and is a member on the Steamboat Museum board. Jack also serves as an elder at St Luke’s Church. Perhaps one of the more interesting services is as a volunteer on the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program, where he has served in official capacities in the past and now offers his time and advice as a resource for lawyers who need guidance and help when they find themselves in troubled times.
Jack’s life has been an amazing legacy to the man in the white suit.