AUBURN — Long-serving Auburn civic leader and attorney Donald T. Mefford died Thursday at the age of 90 at Baylor Scott and White Hospital in Carrollton, Texas.
Mr. Mefford and his wife, Frances “Fran”, had moved from Auburn to Plano, Texas, where their son and daughter-in-law, Stanley Austin Mefford and Joni Carper Mefford, reside.
Mr. Mefford practiced law for 65 years, associating with Kirk Carpenter, W. Erik Weber, Neil Blythe and the late William Husselman.
“In many ways, he was like a second father to me,” said Carpenter, who practiced law with Mr. Mefford for 27 years and went on to serve as judge of DeKalb Circuit Court before retiring.
“Clearly any success I had in the practice of law or respect on the bench was because of the things he taught me,” Carpenter said. “He was truly a great mentor for me. He showed me the way things ought to be done. I could never thank him enough.”
Weber also described Mr. Mefford as a mentor.
“He was one of the most disciplined and hardest-working individuals I have ever been around and actively practiced law at Mefford, Weber and Blythe until he was almost 89 years of age,” Weber said.
“Don was a great mentor and partner in the practice of law to me. He had an incredible mind and ability to resolve problems and provide sound legal advice. I like many others, owe a great deal to him for his guidance over the years,” Weber added. “To me, he really was a legend. He had a great deal of class, and it showed in everything he did.”
DeKalb County Prosecutor ClaraMary Winebrenner echoed Weber’s sentiments.
“Don was always a gentleman. He did things with style, professionalism and always with a smile,” Winebrenner said.
Weber said Mr. Mefford’s father worked in the former Auburn Foundry and for the former Auburn Automobile Co.
“He died when Don was very young, and Don was raised by his mother on the outskirts of Auburn,” Weber said. “He was a proud graduate of Auburn High School and earned a scholarship to Wabash College. Don was a self-made individual, who eventually became an extremely regarded individual and lawyer in the community for nearly 65 years.”
Mr. Mefford operated DeKalb Abstract and Title Co. and practiced banking and real estate law. He was Auburn city attorney for mayors C.L. Boger, John Foley, Donald Allison and Norman Rohm. He served as town attorney for Ashley, Hamilton and Waterloo and also served as the attorney for the Auburn school system and then the DeKalb County Central United School District. He also served a four-year term on the DeKalb Central school board.
“He had a tremendous expertise in the areas of probate, real estate and municipal and school law,” Weber said. “He was instrumental in the creation of the DeKalb County Central United School District when it was established in the mid-1960s and served as legal counsel for over three decades.”
Mr. Mefford was involved in numerous community organizations, including the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, for which he was a past president, Auburn Lions Club, DeKalb County Bar Association and Woodlawn Cemetery.
He exerted a positive influence on Eckhart Public Library, said Janelle Graber, library director.
“As a new director in 1992, he was on my speed dial, and I regularly conferred with him,” Graber said. “Yet, he never charged for his legal services and regularly volunteered his assistance on each and every project that we undertook at the library.
“He helped raise funds and coordinated the acquisition of the bookmobile that allowed for expanding services in rural DeKalb County when he served on Eckhart Public Library’s Board of Trustees from 1987 through 1990,” Graber added. “Don and Fran Mefford have been stalwart supporters of the library. They were instrumental in helping make many of the improvements in library services that the community continues to benefit from today. Though Don and Fran moved away, they remained engaged with the Auburn community and were among the first to pledge to the current capital campaign.”
Carpenter said that as well as serving publicly, there were many times that no one ever knew about when Mr. Mefford helped others privately.
“He was a very generous and community-minded person who was instrumental in many nonprofit, government and philanthropic organizations,” Weber said. “ … His impact on the community has been substantial.”
Funeral services for Mr. Mefford will take place Saturday, Aug. 3, at 1 p.m. at the Auburn Presbyterian Church. A complete obituary for Mr. Mefford appears on page A4 of today’s edition.