Former Cape Girardeau County judge Rader dies

Wednesday, September 1, 2010
William S. Rader (submitted photo)

A retired Cape Girardeau County associate circuit judge known among law professionals for being hardworking, fair, and concerned for the well-being of young offenders died Sunday.

William S. Rader, survived by his wife Birdie, two children and two siblings, was 89.

After practicing law for 30 years in the area, Rader was appointed as Cape Girardeau County Division 3 associate judge in June 1980 by Gov. Joe Teasdale. He was reelected to the position in 1982 and in 1986. He announced his retirement in 1990 at age 70.

"When I look back on it, he was the sort of judge you really want to practice in front of -- one that knows the law and who's going to be courteous," said Morley Swingle, Cape Girardeau County prosecuting attorney.

As a prosecuting attorney, Larry Ferrell, now assistant U.S. attorney, said it was always a pleasure to be in Rader's courtroom. He always tried to make a difference in the lives of the people he served, Ferrell said, calling Rader successful in his mission.

"[Judge Rader] was well known for his 'sermons' to young offenders," Ferrell said. "They would usually start out with 'Can you imagine how immensely proud your parents must be of you right now?' They were extremely entertaining if you weren't on the receiving end and definitely attention-getting if you were."

At the time of his retirement, Rader told the Southeast Missourian that dealing with the thousands of defendants who went through the court is a lot like fishing.

"You catch enough to go back the next day and keep trying. I've tried to be a caring judge," Rader said.

Al Spradling III and Kevin Spaeth, both lawyers with law firms in the Cape Girardeau area, were impressed with the way Rader treated everyone who came before him in the courtroom.

Spaeth said he treated lawyers and defendants with dignity and respect.

"I cannot remember a time when he ever lost his temper, though severely provoked," Spaeth said. "He understood that meting out justice required an application of the law applied through the lens of common sense. As a result litigants and the accused alike always felt like they had their "day" in court."

Although he may not have lost his temper and treated all parties with respect, he took his job seriously, Spradling said.

"If you screwed up, you were going to pay the price," he said. "But he was very fair."

"He had a good courtroom demeanor. He was courteous, but still ran the courtroom with a firm hand," Swingle said.

Retirement for Rader didn't necessarily mean time off, as he returned to practicing law as counsel with the Finch, Bradshaw, Strom and Steele law firm in Cape Girardeau. He also served as a senior judge in various counties until 2007.

His colleague for many years, Stanley Grimm remembers Rader as hardworking but also as a man with a wonderful personality. Rader loved to joke, Grimm said, and was always skilled at decorating. While owning a practice together most of the 1960s and part of the 1970s, Grimm said Rader was in charge of decorating the office Christmas tree each year.

"He was so good at it," Grimm said, laughing at the year he chose to decorate the tree and Rader took it down. "He was a great joker, and he brightened up the world with lots of funny comments."

Rader, born in Broken Bow, Okla., served in the U.S. Army prior to diving into his law career. He was stationed in Australia, New Zealand and Japan during World War II.

Spradling and Grimm both said he was often out with his wife at university or church events.

"He was always friendly and outgoing," Spradling said. "He'll always be known for his legal abilities, but he also kept his family in the forefront."

ehevern@semissourian.com

388-3635

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