In 1933, John B. Farese, a son of an Italian immigrant, left Boston, Massachusetts, and came to Holmes Junior College in Goodman, Mississippi, on a football scholarship. Five other “damn Yankees” came with John, and, after two weeks of the hot, August sun, all had left but him. He met a beautiful southern girl named Orene “Boots” Ellis from Mathiston. Farese won the acceptance of his teammates and the heart of Orene.
After graduation from Holmes, John attended the University of Mississippi Law School in Oxford, Mississippi. He paid his way by making the boxing team, taking up laundry, and selling candy. Many of his classmates and friends remembered his skill and courage in the boxing ring. Orene, at the insistence of her parents, attended Blue Mountain College to become a teacher. The courtship continued until Orene graduated. John had one more year in law school. Despite his charm and wit, the Ellis family did not want Orene to marry an Italian, Catholic, Yankee boy. Orene and John could wait no longer and were secretly married.
In 1938, Orene was hired as a high school English teacher in Ashland, Mississippi. This was as close as she could get to John. After gradation, John had been offered a job in New York City. Orene did not want to leave Mississippi and persuaded him to open a private, one‑man firm in Ashland. They agreed that after one year, if the practice did not provide a reasonable income, that they would move to New York,
In 1939, “Big John”, as he became known, opened his one‑man, one‑room office on the town square of the booming town of Ashland (four hundred inhabitants). He had an old typewriter, three law books and five dollars in his pocket. He paid two dollars for a month’s rent and bought a desk and two chairs for three. The room was so small he had to climb over his desk to sit in his chair. God was smiling on Big John, and his success was immediate. The first day he hung out his shingle, a teacher came to complain that the Superintendent of Education had fired him. Big John told the man, “He can’t do that to you!” Of course Big John did not have a clue why the teacher could not be fired. He told the man to stay right there. He hopped over his desk and went across the street to the Courthouse to talk to the Superintendent. Because the Superintendent liked Orene, it was agreed that the teacher could teach one more year. Big John was elated. He told his client he had his job back, and the client asked how much he owed him. Never having set a fee, Big John calculated that thirty‑five dollars sounded fair (about half a month’s pay for a teacher). The man pulled a large roll of bills out of his overall pocket and gave him fifty dollars. That night John and Orene danced in glee like little children. The Farese law firm had started with a bang.
On Monday, December 8, 1941, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Big John enlisted in the U. S. Army Air Corps. Trained as fighter pilot, he was later transferred to the Judge Advocate General Corps because of the need for attorneys to handle the mounting legal problems with soldiers. Big John tried dozens of cases in the Army in Texas, Kansas and North Africa.
In 1945, when John was discharged from active duty and returned from overseas, he returned to Ashland where Orene had waited patiently. During the war years, Orene and John had two children, John Booth Farese (1944) and Jacqueline Kay Farese (1945). A trial‑hardened attorney emerged from the war with invaluable litigation experience. John entered the political arena in the election of 1947, when he ran for a Senate seat in the Mississippi legislature. The hotly contested race was filled with degrading remarks by his opponents about his being a “Yankee and a Catholic”, but John emerged a victor and began serving his first, four‑year term in the legislature. In 1952, both John and Orene were elected to the House of Representatives. They were the first husband and wife in the United States to be elected to serve at the same time. In 1956, John was re‑elected to the House of Representative, and Orene was elected to the Senate.
The political climate of the South was charged with tension. Integration was the looming issue on the forefront. Big John had earned a reputation of treating all people, regardless of race, creed or color, with the same respect. Orene and John did not agree with the rhetoric of the segregationist movement. As a result, both were defeated in an extremely ugly race in 1959.
During their years in the legislature, two more children were born: Steven Ellis Farese on (1949), and Jeffrey Haimes Farese on (1957). The headlines on April 29, 1957, read “Senator Has Baby!” Jeffrey might have been the first baby ever born to a sitting Senator.
In 1960, John returned to full‑time practice, and, like a small oak seed, Big John Farese grew into a legend. From defending the most sensational criminal cases to championing the causes of the injured, he was a feared opponent. He served as county prosecuting attorney, city attorney for numerous towns, attorney for the board of education and attorney for the board of supervisors. He won several awards for his legal prowess and affable demeanor.
In 1949, Anthony T. Farese, “Tony” to his friends, came South at the insistence of his Uncle John and Aunt Boots. Without John’s help, Tony could not financially afford to go to college. Tony came from a family of nine children. First stop for Tony was Northwest Junior College; then, two years with the U. S. Army as a paratrooper. After the military, Tony returned to the University of Mississippi to complete his education. After law school Tony joined Big John in Ashland. Tony eventually married Margie Roach and stayed in Ashland to practice law. Tony and Margie had twins, Anthony L. Farese and Tammy Farese. Alison Farese was the third and last child.
Between Big John and Tony, the practice grew. Their reputations for hard work coupled with ethical, fair, honest treatment of clients paved the way for Farese, Farese & Farese, P. A. In 1969, John Booth Farese, called “John Booth” to differentiate him from Big John, joined the firm. Big John, Tony and John Booth continued to wage legal battles on behalf of the ordinary citizens against the insurance companies and big‑money interests. Steven Ellis Farese joined the firm in 1977, adding to the growing number of Fareses in the firm. The next year Farese, Farese & Farese, P. A. was formed.
In 1979, Anthony T. “Tony” Farese was elected Chancery Court Judge for the 18th Chancery District (Benton, Calhoun, Lafayette, Marshall, Tippah counties). As Chancellor, Tony created an innovative child visitation schedule designed to insure that non‑custodial parents received a fair amount of visitation with their children. The schedule became so popular that it was adopted in almost all of the Districts of the State of Mississippi and is now known and referred to in Divorce Decrees as the “Farese Visitation Schedule”. Tony was very active in the Mississippi Chancery Judges Conference and at the request of the Mississippi Supreme Court served on the Advisory Committee on Rules of the Supreme Court of Mississippi from 1983 until 1998. Due to health reasons, Tony was forced to retire from that position on December 31, 1998, after serving 20 years on the bench. Tony was revered by all of his fellow attorneys in the state of Mississippi as one of the finest and fairest Chancellors to have served in this state. It was a sad day for the State of Mississippi when Tony finally succumbed to Parkinson’s Disease on November 12th, 2002.
Kay Farese Turner of Memphis, Tennessee, chose to do it “her way” and left Ashland to try her hand at law practice in Memphis, just fifty miles from Ashland. She was imbued with the same desire to be an advocate in the legal arena. Presently, she is considered the top domestic trial attorney in Memphis. She was married to “the late” Jerome Turner, the United States District Judge for the Western Division of Tennessee.
The next generation of Fareses began to follow in the footsteps of Big John Farese. In 1986, Anthony L. “Tony” Farese, joined the firm. He continued the tradition of legal excellence established by his Uncle, Big John, and his father, Chancellor Farese. With teaching experience available at every turn, Tony quickly emerged as a mighty advocate for those charged with violations of the criminal law. Steven E. Farese, Sr., served as Tony’s mentor. Now, together, they form one of the most widely acclaimed criminal defense teams in Mississippi and the Mid‑South area.
In 1993, Bob left the U. S. Attorneys office to join Farese, Farese & Farese, P. A. Bob had his own private practice in Southaven, Mississippi, prior to his years as U. S. Attorney. As a seasoned litigator with great people skills, Bob was a welcome addition to the firm. In August 2013, Bob became a Chancellor for the 18th Chancery District of Mississippi, which is the same district that Chancellor Farese served. Chancellor Whitwell assumed the bench with great skill and compassion.
The third generation of Fareses entered the practice in 1996 and 1997 when Steve Farese, Jr., son of Steven Ellis Farese, Sr., and John Stannard Farese, son of John Booth Farese, joined the firm. Steve Jr. followed in the footsteps of his father and his cousin Tony focusing primarily on criminal litigation, while John S. quickly became a well learned advocate of civil and chancery practice.
Yet another Farese joined the growing number of attorneys, when Alison Farese Thomas, youngest daughter of Chancellor Farese, joined the firm in 1999. Alison had accepted a position and worked for a prestigious civil defense firm since her graduation from University of Mississippi Law School in 1993. Bringing a view into the realm of civil defense, Alison quickly became a valuable member to the firm.
In 2012, Joseph “Whit” Cooper joined the Fareses and quickly became another member of the family and the firm itself. Having interned at the firm throughout his time at the University of Mississippi School of Law, he joined the ranks of Tony and Steve, John Booth, and their sons upon graduation. Whit has become a fierce civil and criminal litigator across North Mississippi.
In the Fall of 2019 after graduating from the University of Mississippi School of Law, Katherine Farese and Michael Farese, Tony’s twins, joined the family firm. They answered the call to the family business and quickly became valuable assets to the firm. Katherine followed in the footsteps of her grandfather Chancellor Farese and became an advocate for family law. Michael joined his father Tony, uncle, and cousins into the foray of criminal defense.
From a humble one‑man office that was so small you had to jump over the desk, to a 12,000 square foot building with eight attorneys and a staff of twelve, the Farese Firm has evolved into one of the foremost leading Law Firms in the Mid‑South. With a commitment towards protecting the civil rights and liberties for all people, Farese, Farese, & Farese will continue to strive for equal justice in the face of adversity.