John Lisle, founder of Springdale law office Lisle Rutledge, died April 27 at his Springdale home surrounded by family. He was 77.
Lisle had battled Alzheimer’s disease in recent years, according to his obituary. He practiced law for nearly 40 years and was a noted trial lawyer. He founded the firm in 1990, which changed its name in 2001 when Donnie Rutledge, who joined the practice in 1993, became a shareholder.
In a statement issued on behalf of the firm, Rutledge remembered Lisle as incredibly kind, considerate and extraordinarily empathetic.
“I lost count of the times I watched him interact with a potential client about the client’s legal problem and witnessed him absorbing the client’s feelings, emotions and needs,” Rutledge said. “Once they became his, he had the rare ability to communicate them to others, usually jurors, in a way that often moved them, and him, to tears. He felt his clients through and through. They were like family to him.
“To many, being a lawyer was a job. To John, it was something much more. Something that is hard to put into words, but is fundamental, authentic and profound.”
Rutledge also noted Lisle’s intelligence as a factor in his ability and success, saying that Lisle worked a full-time job in a Campbell Soup Co. plant all the way through law school at the University of Arkansas.
“Some of his classmates barely knew who he was,” Rutledge explained. “He simply did not have the time to study like most students, yet he made the highest score on the bar exam. He was one of those men who could always find a way.
“We will certainly miss him, but how fortunate we are to have had the pleasure of knowing him.”
Lisle was born in Oklahoma, but graduated from Huntsville High School in Madison County in 1957. After serving in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, Lisle was later the first in his family to attend college, graduating from the UA with a law degree in May 1967.
He was soon hired as the attorney for the city of Springdale, serving from 1967 from 1971, before entering private practice, initially under his own shingle in Northwest Arkansas, and later working for larger law firms in Little Rock.
Lisle returned to Springdale from Little Rock in 1990 in order to practice law with his middle son Chris, who graduated from law school in the fall of 1992. His youngest son Steve joined the firm soon thereafter.
In addition to his law career, Lisle was also an elected state senator from Northwest Arkansas, representing District 13 in the 73rd General Assembly (1981) and District 2 in the 74th General Assembly (1983).
He was also elected to the Springdale School Board from 1975 to 1980.
“I looked up to him,” said Springdale District Judge Jeff Harper, who was Springdale’s city attorney from 1986 to 2012. “As a matter of fact, he gave me a letter of recommendation when I took the bar exam 33 years ago.”
Harper said Lisle was frequently a “coffee-drinking” buddy through the years.
“I’ve known him for over 40 years, even when I was in school at Springdale High School,” he said. “He was always a professional as an attorney.”
A memorial service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Sisco Funeral Chapel of Springdale.