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LaBarre, attorney, former judge, dies at 78

[12/11/01] Vicksburg attorney and municipal judge for many years Oscar P. LaBarre Jr. died Monday, Dec. 10, 2001, at ParkView Regional Medical Center.

Mr. LaBarre, who was 78, was a native of Vicksburg and the son of the late Oscar P. LaBarre Sr. and Mary Roof LaBarre. In addition to his legal work, he was a longtime cast member of “Gold In The Hills,” the melodrama staged here for more than 50 years by the Vicksburg Theatre Guild.

Mr. LaBarre received his early education in public schools here and then went to Texas A&M University to study engineering, said Lucius B. Dabney, a boyhood friend, college classmate and fraternity brother.

Dabney said Mr. LaBarre joined the Army in 1943. When he returned from World War II, Mr. LaBarre went to the University of Mississippi and received a bachelor’s degree in business and accounting.

“We were roommates and members of Phi Delta Theta,” Dabney said.

For a time, Dabney said, Mr. LaBarre worked for a large paint company in Memphis before returning to Ole Miss to study law. He then returned to Vicksburg and practiced with U. Grey Flowers before Flowers moved to Jackson and Mr. LaBarre became a solo practitioner.

Mr. LaBarre was appointed Vicksburg municipal judge in 1958 and served for about 30 years.

“He was a gentleman,” said Marie Pantoliano, who served in the Vicksburg City Clerk’s Office for many years and served as city clerk for years after. “He was distinguished, he was a great person.”

Pantoliano said when Mr. LaBarre first took the bench, the city courtroom was on the first floor of City Hall in a space now occupied by the city’s computers. “Oscar was a really, really nice fellow,” she said.

Dabney, who has practiced law in Vicksburg for many years, also praised Mr. LaBarre’s abilities.

“He was a very fine lawyer, very capable,” he said. “He did his clients a good job.”

Another colleague, Wren C. Way, offered praise. “Oscar was what I consider one of the old-school of lawyers. You could trust him and believe what he told you. He was a very capable attorney and city judge,” Way said.

J. Stanford Terry, another veteran Vicksburg attorney now retired, was also a fraternity brother of Mr. LaBarre’s at Ole Miss and knew him for many years.

“I knew him since we were at Ole Miss in 1941,” Terry said.

“I was fond of him and considered him a good lawyer,” Terry said. “I shall always respect him.”

Gerald E. Braddock, now in private practice but who served a term on bench of the 9th Chancery Court District, said he had many cases with, against and in front of Mr. LaBarre.

“He was an excellent city judge,” Braddock said. “He had a good legal mind to go along with a lot of good common sense to apply,” Braddock said.

“He was a fine man and you could depend on what he told you,” Braddock continued.

In “Gold In The Hills,” the world’s longest running melodrama, Mr. LaBarre played Big Mike, the bartender in the Bowery dance hall, and that’s where Bertha Kolb remembers him.

“He was a wonderful actor. Everyone could depend on Oscar,” she said. “He might be there at the last minute, but nobody worried because he was very dependable. He always had his makeup on, his costume looked good and he had his props in order.”

Mr. LaBarre is survived by his wife, Jacqueline LaBarre of Vicksburg; three sons, Oscar P. “Putt” LaBarre III of Columbus, Robert Selby LaBarre of Vicksburg and William Ross LaBarre of Hollandale; a daughter, Lois LaBarre Wilson; and 11 grandchildren.

Services will be announced by Fisher-Riles Funeral Home.