Beloved long-time Chancery Clerk, attorney in Adams County dies at 81

Published 5:08 pm Monday, July 26, 2021

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NATCHEZ — Thomas J. O’Beirne, a long-time Chancery Clerk of Adams County, died Sunday at age 81.

Left to cherish his memory is his wife, Pokey; their children, Patrick and Ryan Obeirne and Meg Payment; and seven grandchildren, whom O’Beirne dearly loved, along with many other relatives and friends, Payment said.

“His faith and family were his top priorities,” she said. “He was a busy man but never ever made us feel like he didn’t have time for us. He and my mom both.”

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Payment said her parents would have celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary on Thursday. Instead, her family will be using the day to celebrate O’Beirne’s life.

“Tommy” O’Beirne — as he was affectionately called by friends — loved traveling, golf and spending time with grandchildren, Payment said.

“(My kids) loved their ‘Grandy,’” she said. “We’ve always cherished those moments with him.”

O’Beirne grew up in a close-knit family with 9 other siblings, six sisters and three brothers. His parents immigrated from Ireland and lived in White Plains, New York before moving too Natchez to be with family.

O’Beirne’s uncle was assigned to pastor St. Mary Basilica, Payment said.

Darryl Grennell, who formerly served as president of the Adams County Board of Supervisors, said he knew O’Beirne a long time before he became a public official.

“As a little boy at my grandparents’ gas station, he would often stop by there. I was probably in the third or fourth grade when I met him and I’ve known him the majority of my life,” Grennell said.

When Grennell was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1997, his seat was right beside O’Beirne’s in the board room on State Street. Any question Grennell had, O’Beirne was there to answer from the beginning, he said.

“He was truly an asset not just to me but to the entire county. He helped a lot of people in Adams County and he did it from his heart. He didn’t go around bragging about what he did,” Grennell said.

O’Beirne served as Chancery Clerk in Adams County for 36 years and didn’t retire from working with the county until Grennell did, he said.

O’Beirne also practiced law in Adams County for many years and served as a state representative.

As such, Grennell said he “opened doors” for him by introducing him to Adams County’s delegation at the state level.

O’Beirne’s house sat on a large lot on Homochitto Street, where his family raised chickens and livestock, Grennell said. It was O’Beirne’s chore as a little boy to milk the cow every day before Catholic school, he said.

“(O’Beirne) cut a deal with his dad, if he could get a job and earn money to buy milk for the family daily would he allow that in lieu of him milking the cow every morning,” Grennell said. “He got a job at a grocery store downtown in order to provide milk to the family.”

O’Beirne also worked his way through college in Oxford driving a bread truck and hitchhiked back and forth between work and school before he finished law school.

Payment said he was also the lead singer of a rock and roll band called “Bop Beats,” which would perform at the Eola and other locations around Natchez to help him to pay for law school.

“He was a beautiful singer,” she said. “He wrote music and sang cover songs for artists like Jerry Lee Lewis. In the last five years he started taking guitar lessons and loved to play.”

Grennell said his parents and grandparents were O’Beirne’s first clients when he finally started practicing law in Adams County.

Grennell said he last spoke to O’Beirne when his father Jonathan Grennell died in April and O’Beirne called to extend his condolences, Grennell said.

“Tommy was a people’s person. Everybody loved him. He never met a stranger,” he said. “He was truly a great guy … a statesman and champion for the people. Natchez and Adams County has lost an asset and sparkling diamond of a citizen.”

Payment also said her father had a humble disposition and a genuine love for everyone he met.

She said O’Beirne taught her and her brothers to “welcome everyone that we met with open hearts and minds,” even if they have different beliefs about things.

“He was always interested in other people’s stories,” she said. “He was active in the community and loved Natchez and its people so much. He always wanted to do whatever he could to support the community.”