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Bar bids farewell to a friend and mentor

FLAT ROCK — The pews of St. John in the Wilderness creak with history, which was fitting, given that on Wednesday afternoon the old church hosted a big portion of the men and women who have made history in the courtrooms of Hendersonville over the past 50 years.

"If there were no bad people," Father John Morton said, quoting Charles Dickens, "there would be no good lawyers."
"There must be bad people in the world and there must be bad people in Henderson County," he went on, "because we all know a good lawyer. Boyd Massagee was a good lawyer and he was a good man."
It seemed as if most of the bar of Henderson County filed into the old Episcopal Church along with St. John parishioners, family and friends to bid farewell to Boyd Broadway Massagee Jr., who died on Thursday at age 81 at the Elizabeth House after a short illness.
Enough judges attended to fill a third of a jury box. Every Henderson County-based judge was there — Chief Resident Superior Court Judge Mark Powell, Chief District Court Judge Athena Brooks and District Court judges Peter Knight and Emily Cowan — as if they had to make sure they were on hand in case the barrister had left some nugget of legal wisdom that the minister would impart. Same with Massagee's peers at the bar.
God forbid if someone had a pressing legal matter that needed to be argued by one of Hendersonville's top lawyers and heard by one of its judges; they would have had to convene a session in the narthex.
In that historic sanctuary Massagee had always sat in a back corner, and Father Morton pointed back to the place.
"He was faithful, enduring, modest and he very quietly went about doing much good that people were not aware of," Morton said.
That is in keeping with what Massagee's law partners and bar brothers and sisters said about him after his death. He was always willing to help, never eager for, or even tolerant of, public credit.
Given his lifelong love affair with the English language — he was a ferocious consumer of vocabulary and skillful user of it — it was unsurprising that he chose Scripture that is both meaningful and beautifully written. Passages were from Paul's letter to the Romans, in which "neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." And John 14: 1-6, "I am the way and the truth and the life." And Psalm 23, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want" — no lover of language would want anything other than the King James Version.
"Boyd Massagee was a serious person who did not take himself too seriously," Father Morton said. "Boyd would laugh at the craziness of people but he would not judge them. He saw them for what they were and he appreciated the humor of their eccentricities, reserving to God exclusively the power to judge people."
Massagee had asked that the guests at his funeral would be served communion, and so communion was served.
Having completed his closing argument, Father Morton commended Boyd B. Massagee Jr. into the hands of God. The people rose from the creaky pews and sang "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."
The service came in at 58 minutes, like a hearing before a strict judge who sets a one-hour pretrial motion hearing and means it.
The Prince, Youngblood and Massagee law firm filled two pews behind the family. Those attorneys of a steel intellect and poker faces walked out of the church red-eyed and a little shaken — a patriarch having now been officially delivered to the Judge Everlasting.
The Massagee family, which includes two succeeding generations of attorneys, stood and filed out as well. B.B. "Buddy" Massagee III, a member of the firm, paused in the center aisle and looked back at the seat Father Morton had pointed out earlier, and then turned and walked out into the dim sun of a late winter day.