Former district attorney Billy Faile passes away

Published 9:32 pm Thursday, June 22, 2017

People that knew William Thomas “Billy” Faile said he wasn’t just a great lawyer — he was also a great person.

Billy Faile

Faile passed away Saturday, June 17, 2017, at the age of 75 after battling Alzheimer’s disease.

“He was just a good guy, had a heart of gold,” said Martin “Buddy” Hardin, Faile’s brother-in-law.

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He was the youngest district attorney in the state of Alabama when he served during the 1970s. He resigned as district attorney of March of 1975 and went into private practice.

Attorney Ed Greene, who considered Faile to be one of his best friends, remembers when Faile decided to step down.

“I said Billy, why are you leaving the DA’s office? Everybody loves you down here. You don’t need to leave the DA’s office,” Greene recalled. “He said if I don’t leave now, I’ll never leave, and I want to practice law. I’ll be here forever as a DA.”

Greene also recalled a joke Faile used to tell about his days as district attorney about a night club in Selma where illegal gambling was suspected.

“There was a place that was a very popular club with rumors of some gambling,” Greene remembered. “Billy came into the club. He came through the door and greeted everybody and told them ‘everybody is under arrest here now,’ on the basis of possible gambling going on. And this great big guy stood up and looked at him, and Billy said ‘except you.’”

Greene said it was hard not to like Faile, who had a way with people.

“Just about everybody and his brother liked him, so when you’re picking a jury, he knows everybody,” he laughed. “He just had a communication skill that was pleasant, and you were interested. He wasn’t screaming and hollering and all that, and he made sense. He always was ready.”

Cartledge Blackwell, who knew Faile well from the courtroom, said Faile was a special lawyer.

“In criminal law, a lawyer can go out and gather the facts, interview people and that kind of thing, but it was a special lawyer like Billy that knew what to do with those facts, had the judgement to say okay, this is what needs to be done with this,” Blackwell said. “He was excellent on his feet in a trial.”

Hardin said Faile truly cared about his clients, even going as far as taking care of their families. He recalled a story about a client of Faile’s that went to prison, leaving his wife at home with no income and six children.

“Right before Christmas Billy loaded up the back of his car with Christmas gifts and took them down there for those six children because he knew there was no money in the household for the children to have Christmas,” Hardin said.

Outside of work, Faile loved Alabama football, so much so that Hardin said he is being buried in an Alabama shirt.

“Billy wasn’t an Alabama fan. He was an Alabama fanatic. Anything to do with Alabama sports, he was Alabama,” Hardin said. “He would get up on Saturday morning when it was a game day, and he would run through the house saying it’s game day.”

Hardin said Faile was athletic, but he wasn’t much of a golfer, as he recalled the story of the last time Faile played golf.

“We went over to Maxwell Air Force Base one Sunday afternoon … and I hit my ball and it went off to the left, and Billy hit his, and it went off down to the right,” Hardin remembered. “I went over there and found my ball and hit my second shot, and I saw Billy in the woods looking. I walked over and said, ‘Hey, did you lose your ball in here?’ And he looked at me and said, ‘No, I lost my damn club.’ He got mad and threw his club out in the woods.”

He is survived by his son Madison Faile; sister, Jeanette Faile (M.A. “Buddy”) Hardin; niece, Tay (Jerry) Etheredge; nephew, Wes (Dianne) Hardin; niece, Tara (Chuck) Utsey; and numerous great-nieces, nephews and cousins. He is preceded in death by his former wife Laura McClain and his parents.

Visitation will be Friday, June 23 at Lawrence Brown-Service Funeral Home from 12:30-2 p.m.

A service will follow at the funeral home at 2:15 p.m.