To say that David Appleby’s roots run deep in the county seats and courthouses of southwest Missouri is an understatement of the highest order.
His great-grandfather and namesake served as Greene County’s first justice of the peace. Great-grandfather Sam was a Greene County judge. Another great-grandfather, Benjamin Kite, was Springfield’s first police chief.
David Appleby’s father (also named Sam) served two terms as elected prosecutor in Christian County — the same job David Appleby held fresh out the University of Missouri School of Law, Class of 1975, as he grew his own small-town practice.
Their family history includes a line of military service that Appleby, a Vietnam veteran, traces to the Revolutionary War, and one in which his son Adam, a West Point graduate, followed.
“I don’t think Dad ever said a word about me becoming a lawyer,” said David Appleby, who was six when Sam Appleby was elected county prosecutor in 1954.
Twenty-five years later, Appleby and his father practiced side-by-side for several years before Sam Appleby was elected an associate circuit court judge, a position he held for six years before his death.
Like father, like son. David Appleby too was a local judge, on the municipal side, as well as city attorney for Ozark, the Christian County seat, as the county grew from its rural roots to a nearly 90,000-resident Springfield bedroom community.
His local newspaper, the Christian County Headliner, wrote in 2004 that the “Ozark attorney has so many branches of his family tree in Greene and Christian counties that people fear to speak ill of anyone in his presence, he says with that stingy smile, because he’s probably a relative.”
Among his extensive civic involvement, Appleby spent time as head of the international Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, or Knights Templar, a religious, chivalrous and charitable order that is a Swiss-based non-governmental organization (NGO) with United Nations status.
In a nomination letter, a colleague called Appleby a “pillar of the community” and a “great example of what lawyers should strive to be: professional and ethical in the legal profession while serving others in all aspects of life.”
Reflecting on his career, Appleby recalled how he interviewed with a couple of large law firms in Kansas City, turning down the higher pay for the chance to return to where it began.
“It seemed the right thing to do was to come home,” he said.