There’s a Philip Seymour Hoffmanesque quality to Braxton Morale, the 20-year-old Ulysses native who in 2019 graduated from high school and Harvard University at a time.
With slightly tousled sandy blonde hair, Moral has an unassuming, funky presence that shines through if it’s in a photo from the New York Times Where in front of the camera in “The Kelly Clarkson Show”. But there’s also just a little something under the surface that hints at his intelligence and maybe a bit of mischief too.
“He works hard to be humble because he’s accomplished so much,” said attorney Randy Rathbun, who hired Moral at Wichita. Depew Gillen Rathbun & McInteer law firm, where Moral started last Monday.
“A jury can spot a fake from a mile away, and the way it is isn’t fake,” said Rathbun, an attorney who specializes in labor and environmental law. “He’s honestly unassuming and . . . I think it will play well.
Rathbun said “the good thing about it is you know in the courtroom, you want to smile while you slash somebody, and I think he can do it.”
The two first met when Moral was around 10 years old and his family engaged Rathbun in a civil case.
“He was just in love with it all,” Rathbun said. “Everything I did, he wanted to know why I did that.”
Moral’s curiosity is what prompted his parents and teachers to look for ways to keep him engaged beyond his regular classes at Ulysses.
Carlos Moral remembers how he and his wife, Julie, were called to their son’s kindergarten class.
“We didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “We thought there was something negative.”
They learned that their son was “very different from all the other kids” and needed more challenges, so they started adding first-grade studies, then second-grade, then third-grade and beyond. beyond that, but Moral said his son remained “completely bored”.
The Duke University Talent Identification Program began following Braxton, calling him an only child in a generation with uncommon intelligence.
“I said, ‘Well, what do we do with him?’ “said Carlos Moral.
They couldn’t send their young son to college, but Fort Hays State University let Braxton take online classes. It still wasn’t enough. Duke connected him with Harvard, where he eventually won over disbelieving administrators.
Although Braxton took online classes through Harvard to get his government college degree, his parents were adamant that he was still attending high school “and just doing normal kid stuff,” Carlos Moral said. .
Although receiving about four dozen media requests and having the “Today” show at your high school graduation is anything but normal.
Braxton took it in stride, but his dad said, “It was really a bit surreal.”
Rathbun followed Braxton as he grew up.
When Braxton was around 15, Rathbun went to East High School to watch him in a debate.
“He was just a freak. I mean, he was just tearing the other side up,” Rathbun said. “He was just playing, like, with these kids. was going to be a fabulous lawyer.
Morality had a tactic.
“Usually I just choose small things,” he said. “I would distinguish their knowledge from their sources.”
It would throw the other kids, who weren’t expecting this stuff, so Morale would continue. He said it had a snowball effect and made his competitors look bad.
Rathbun said Moral somehow did it while keeping things pretty relaxed.
“I guess it depends on who you ask,” Moral said, thinking of his opponents. “I’m sure they felt differently.”
Carlos Moral recalls that once, during a writing class in which his son had to be convincing, he argued for a book that said Watergate was a coup.
Braxton Moral said it wasn’t that he believed that, he “just wanted to do some nice writing.”
Rathbun encouraged Moral to go beyond Kansas for law school, but, like Rathbun, he went to Washburn University to stay close to his family when his mother was sick.
Rathbun heard how morality would “force itself on other students” in law school in certain situations.
“He clearly didn’t suffer fools willingly,” Rathbun said. “Sometimes I think he looks too much like me. He’s charging right in front of him, so I’m going to have to break some rough spots for him.
Moral is willing to learn from Rathbun and do what the company needs him to do.
“Well, for starters, whatever they tell me.”
Rathbun said Moral wouldn’t carry his briefcase and watch depositions the way some young lawyers might fall victim to.
“I want to keep him interested, so I put some hard stuff on him,” Rathbun said. “I’m going to throw him in the water and see if he can swim.”
Moral said “everything is exciting” and he’s just trying to go with the flow.
“I don’t know if I’ve completely decided exactly what I’m going to do,” he said of what he wants to practice.
Even once he figured it out, he said, “That doesn’t necessarily mean 50 years later that’s what I’ll be doing.”
Moral knows not only is he’s starting a career, but he’s entering a new phase in his upbringing, and Rathbun – the courtroom pit bull wearing a cowboy boot – is ready to teach him. .
Although Moral is ready to draw a line – “Listen, if you ever see me in cowboy boots in the courtroom, you need to call me and tell me it’s time to stop,” he said. he says – he knows he can learn from Rathbun and his new firm.
“Outside of the fashion advice, I think it’s really good information.”