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Marshall attorney Sam Baxter has ‘a heart for the community’

August 26, 2018

Robin Y. Richardson, Marshall News Messenger

When he's not in the courtroom litigating high profile patent cases, local attorney Sam Baxter is out in his community, advocating for children, supporting every endeavor he can, for the greater good.

"Mr. Sam ... he cares about kids. He doesn't do anything for Sam Baxter," said Marshall High Schools athletic director Clint Harper. "He's not doing it for his acknowledgement or for people to recognize him. He likes to do things for kids and that's what he's always worried about - how it's going to help kids and not how it's going to help Sam Baxter."

In his four years with the district, Harper has been touched by Baxter's passion, helping not only the athletics department, but band, baseball and academics.

"Specifically in football, he was a big supporter and contributor to us," said Harper, sharing how Baxter helped renovate the backend of the field house, improving the varsity locker room with showers, lockers and flooring.

"That was his major contribution my first year here," said Harper, sharing how Baxter's generosity has given the kids a sense of pride. "It's made a world of difference for those kids and their attitude for them wanting to be here.

"I've got 30 of them now, because of a big screen TV he put back there, playing X-box," Harper noted Thursday afternoon. "If it wasn't there, they may be out doing something else that may not be good."

"He just does it to help kids,"

The athletic director admires the humility Baxter displays, shying away from any credit others try to give him, including recognition for the high school's new scoreboard in which he was a major contributor.

"He doesn't want acknowledgment," said Harper. "He doesn't want the scoreboard or field named after him. He's in it for kids."

Chase Palmer, a school board member, agrees.

"MISD has no greater friend than Sam Baxter," said Palmer. "Whatever seems to be needed, in a pinch, he is there to help provide.

The school board member said Baxter not only supports the district with monetary donations, but also with his time.

"It's kind of funny (that) if you go to baseball games, you'd see him back there flipping burgers with the booster club," Palmer chuckled. "That's one of the things I think is kind of cool. I look behind the concession stand and Sam Baxter is flipping burgers, every time I go."

Baxter's heart for not only children, but his community is something Rev. Rodger Garbs, pastor of First United Methodist Church, has had the pleasure of witnessing, too.

"I've worked closely with Sam on several projects and with Sam it's all about the kids, it's all about making Marshall better, but it's really about the kids," said Garbs. "He truly cares, making sure every kid has the opportunity to experience events and opportunities."

Garbs, who worked with Baxter on passing the school bond project, said he appreciates the relationship the attorney has with the high school band. Whenever the booster club needs a helping hand, Baxter is there to give it.

"Not only with finances, but I went and talked to him about our concession stand and trying to figure out ways we could better improve the flow of people, (provide a) better experience underneath the stadium," said Garbs, a booster club member.

Every Friday night, during football season, Baxter meets him at the concessions, offering helpful suggestions to ease the traffic flow.

"He would (voluntarily) do the legwork," Garbs said. "With the band ... with the Mavettes, he's just been very generous ... very helpful," said Garbs.

Baxter is also actively involved with other districts in the county as well as all the local colleges. Jerry Cargill, vice chair on the Wiley College board of trustees and vice chair of Wiley's institutional advancement committee, said Baxter has been a blessing to the college, helping them recondition the old Coker field to be used for the college's baseball team and providing scholarships for students locally and abroad to attend the inaugural drama and film school institute that kicked off for 10 days this summer.

"I've known Sam for several years and he's just a super generous and nice human being," said Cargill. "He likes his community and he likes to give back to his community. He loves kids, enjoys working with kids and all the kids' events."

When Cargill approached the attorney a year ago about helping revamp the old Coker field, Baxter didn't hesitate to help in the mission, which was to "give those kids a baseball field they can play and enjoy."

As a token of appreciation, the college invited Baxter, a baseball fanatic, out on the field to meet the players and throw the first ball.

"He was very generous to help," said Cargill. "He offered donations from himself and his company."

Baxter showed the same eagerness to assist with the film institute, launched by Hollywood actor, producer, director and writer, Nate Parker, earlier this summer.

"I took Nate over to meet him when he was in town a few months ago. Sam really took to Nate and was very excited about what he was bringing to the (community)," said Cargill. "We were trying to raise money for scholarships for these kids (to attend the summer institute) and Sam immediately stepped up and said what can I do to help and gave scholarships for kids to go.

"The city is real lucky to have someone like Sam and his wife," Cargill said of Baxter's wife, Marcy, longtime director of CASA of Harrison County, which advocates for abused and neglected children. "I can say nothing but good things."

A call to serve
For Baxter, giving back to one's community is something one should do.

"It's really important and it's kind of important about who you give it to," said Baxter, whose law firm McKool Smith where he is a principal, sponsors various youth -related activities.

"We try to primarily emphasize giving back to kids," he said. "That really is the most important thing you can do for a community is to help our children, seems to me."

He believes: "If you can't give back to the place you live, to the nest that you've made for yourself then what can you do? So, it's obviously incredibly important that the place you want to make your home and your family that you try to make it as good a place as it can be for your kids."

Baxter, a former district attorney and district judge of Harrison County, learned such values early on watching the matriarchs of his family - his mother and grandmother - exhibit compassion in their daily lives.

"My mother and my grandmother were really the kindest people I knew," he said. "They really thought that you ought to help people that were less fortunate than you are."

His desire to give was also influenced by the kindness that was extended to him when he was in need of a hand.

"I had several times in my life where I needed a helping hand and there was always somebody that stuck it out and said: 'Let me help you,'" Baxter recalled. "You don't forget things like that."

Known as "a man who believes in his community," Baxter supports many Marshall ISD-related ventures and departments including MISD athletics, Marshall Education Foundation and Maverick University. He also sponsors activities of surrounding schools including Hallsville, Harleton, New Diana, Elysian Fields and Waskom ISDs. Additionally, he's an advocate for higher education, aiding the activities of East Texas Baptist University, Wiley College and Texas State Technical College. He also supports Marshall Symphony League, CASA of Harrison County and Farm City Week, which is presented annually by the Harrison County Agri Business Association.

Through the McKool Smith Public Service scholarships and the Texas Exes Sam Baxter Endowment Scholarship, Baxter has helped many pay their way to college.

"The law firm decided more than a decade ago that we wanted to do something to give back because the court system and the town had been very kind to us," Baxter said. "And because I came out of government, because I came out of the law enforcement background, (we thought) what better thing to do than to help the children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews of people that were in public service, who toiled out there, making us safe, making our lives better and do it for almost no thanks and little, little money. So we thought well, if we could give scholarships to these kids that want to go to college, that were in the public service, what better thing to do."

The firm awarded 17 scholarships this year.

"No one that has applied for a McKool Smith Public Service Scholarship has ever been turned down regardless of who they were," Baxter said, noting they've invested close to $200,000 in the education of children whose family members have careers in public service.

"We try to pay back a little bit of what people have given us," he said, noting the top national and regional ranked firm has been a fixture in Marshall for about 21 years.

Baxter said supporting education is important to him.

"The real reward is to know that we made a difference, that some kids get to go to school that might not otherwise get to go, that we've helped them along the way, that we've encouraged them," he said. "And you see them come back and make a difference. You see them come back and become school teachers, see them come back and work in the community whether they're lawyers or whether they're accountants or back in the public school systems. And that's really rewarding that we've helped do that. We've helped them get down the road, get educated, then they come back and help make a difference again."

The Marshall resident of 46 years advises anyone to get involved in their communities.

"It comes back to you all kinds of ways," he said of the great feeling it brings. "And all you gotta do is just try a little bit and you just get rewarded tenfold, if you help people. It really pays dividends all kinds of ways."

"It's not really philanthropy," he said of his involvement in the community. "It's just doing things that people ought to do."