The predecessor of Freeland & Freeland was James Stone & Sons, the law firm of Phil Stone. The building where Freeland & Freeland is located is the oldest continuous law office building in Mississippi. It is on the National Registry of historic places as a part of Oxford's downtown historical district, and is on walking tours of Oxford devoted to local history and to Oxford and William Faulkner's fiction (including a map locating the office).
The building was constructed as a law office prior to the Civil War, and, before being purchased by James Stone, had been the law office of United States Senator W.V. Sullivan and Justice L.Q.C Lamar, who served on the United States Supreme Court from 1888 to 1892. The building was purchased in 1905 by Stone and his then partner Clarence Sivley, who later became General Counsel of the Illinois Central Railroad.
Susan Snell's biography of Phil Stone describes the office:
Stone and Sivley had the interior redecorated in 1905, and on the canvas ceiling...Stone supervised the painting of a large floral border enclosing...symbols and the facsimile signatures of former tenants and Stone's legal associates, which have been retained to the present. Still in the front yard too is the white stone called the "upping block," used by Phil's father when he mounted his stallion Bob. Snell, Phil Stone of Oxford at 30-31 (1991)
The names painted on the ceiling include: Sam C. Cook, who, after practicing with Stone, served on the Mississippi Supreme Court; Edward Mayes, a nineteenth century chancellor of the University of Mississippi and Lamar's son-in-law and successor as law professor; James C. Longstreet and Julian Wilson, both chancery court judges, Sivley, and Perrin H. Lowrey. The oval pictures throughout these pages are from that ceiling mural.
Faulkner scholarElizabeth Kerr identified a law office in The Sound and the Fury as a description based on Stone's off:
We went down thestreet and turned into a bit of lawn in which, set back from the street, stood a one story building of brick trimmed with white. We went up the rock path to the door. ....We entered a bare room.... There was ... a faded map on the wall and a dingy plat of a township.
-William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury at 177 (1929).
In 1907, Clarence Sivley had left for Chicago and the I.C. Railroad, and Jack Stone joined his father in practice. The firm became James Stone and Son, becoming James Stone and Sons after Phil Stone's arrival after he was graduated from the Yale Law School in 1918. Except for a brief period as Stone, Stone, Oldham and Stone, the firm remained James Stone and Sons until Phil Stone's retirement in the 1960's. The lawyers in the firm were railroad lawyers, defending the railroads "in the old halcyon days when even the companies considered their southern branches and divisions the legitimate prey of all who dwelt beside them." William Faulkner, "Mule in the Yard," Collected Stories of William Faulkner at 253 (1950). In addition to representing the Illinois Central Railway, the firm represented a number of insurers; this defense practice continues to be an important part of the successor firms' work to this day. After the I.C. Railroad closed its line through Oxford in the 1970s, the successor firm, Freeland and Freeland, represented the I.C.'s successor, the Natchez Trace Railroad.
During the teens and twenties, Phil Stone began sharing books with and encouraging the writing of his younger friend, Williams Faulkner. His support extended to having the secretaries in the law office type Faulkner's early work, and to paying for vanity press publication of The Marble Faun, Faulkner's first book. Faulkner dedicated to Stone the three books of the Snopes Trilogy (The Hamlet, The Town, and The Mansion), and based characters on both Stone and his family members. Specifically, the lawyer Gavin Stevens, a major character in Intruder in the Dust andKnights Gambit, was based upon Phil Stone. Further, the Stone firm's experience as railroad lawyers provided Faulkner with stories about characters "constantly in litigation with the railroad over the violent demise of [their live]stock." Faulkner, Sartoris at 130 (1929). The ultimate type for these characters, I.O. Snopes, would, in "Mules in the Yard," repeatedly "sell" livestock to the railroad by tying the animals together and releasing them in a narrow blind curve, then suing the railroad for their demise. Another character was advised "the railroad company ought to furnish that stock of yourn with time tables." Sartoris at 131.
After Faulkner won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Ford Foundation made a short documentary about Faulkner and Oxford. One scene, a conversation between Stone and Faulkner, was filmed in Stone's office. The photograph shown was taken by Phil Mullen during the filming of that documentary.
In the late nineteen thirties, Stone's brothers and his father all died in a short period, leaving Stone a sole practitioner. He continued to practice alone until T.H. Freeland, III entered the practice when he was graduated from law school in 1958.
Stone was best known as an appellate advocate, and as a lawyer's lawyer, often retained by lawyers in need of help on complicated cases. He was also very active in the state bar, first in the effort to establish a mandatory bar, and then as president of the Mississippi Bar in 1948-1949.
Several years after Stone had made Freeland a partner, G.A. Gafford joined the firm. The firm of Freeland & Gafford succeeded James Stone & Sons after Phil Stone's retirement in 1964. T.H. Freeland, III's son T.H. Freeland, IV began practicing with the firm in 1981, and the firm Freeland & Freeland succeeded Freeland & Gafford in 1984, and has continued to date. Details about their practice are in the firm's general profile and under the individual lawyer's profiles.