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Memorials

JOE J. FISHER

1910-2000

 

United States District Judge Joe J. Fisher passed away on Monday, June 19th, 2000 after a brief illness.  Judge Fisher was born April 6, 1910 in the San Augustine county community of Bland Lake, the son of the late Lula Bland and Guy Brown Fisher, both pioneering families of the area.  Judge Fisher attended Stephen F. Austin University and received his Law Degree from the University of Texas in 1936.  He was an extremely loyal University of Texas graduate and always had very close ties to UT and more particularly to its Law School.

 

After receiving his Law Degree, Fisher served as a San Augustine County Attorney, then District Attorney of the First Judicial District of Texas.  He had a law firm in Jasper before being elected to the First Judicial District Bench in 1957.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed him as U.S. District Judge for the eastern district of Texas on October 23rd, 1959.  His fellow members of the Judiciary recognized Judge Fisher as setting an example that reflected a strong sense of humanity, honesty, and integrity.

 

Many of Fisher’s rulings have set consequential legal precedence.  He made the first award to a family that companies, which manufactured asbestos and didn’t warn handlers of the potential dangers, could be held liable.  Fisher kept a full caseload up until the final days before his death at age 90.  Fisher also authored the first de-segregation plan for Beaumont’s schools in 1970 after the U.S. Justice Department ordered the integration of the South Park School District in Beaumont.

 

His wife Kathleen, three sons Joseph, Guy, and John, a daughter, Ann, sixteen grandchildren and seventeen great grandchildren survived him.  Judge Fisher’s family was of tremendous importance to him – he was known throughout the Beaumont area as a great family man, extremely proud of and supportive of children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  He was also an avid handball player.  Lamar University in the Beaumont area and lawyers in 1966 created the Joe J. Fisher Distinguished Lecture program to attract national speakers to Beaumont.

 

J.S.B.

 


 

WALTER G. HALL

1907-2000

 

 

Picture the home in 1907 of a mechanic in League City who worked for the Interurban Line linking Galveston County to Houston.  His seventh child, Walter, was born that year, then reared and schooled in League City, and later obtained a scholarship to nearby Rice University.  For four years in the 1920’s, Walter rose each morning at 5:00 a.m. to milk the cows so that his parents could trade butter for provisions at the local store.  Then, using his free pass as a family member, he climbed aboard the Interurban Line to reach his classes at Rice by 8:30 a.m. 

 

Some years later, picture a small-town banker who in his lifetime headed five different banks at one time, who would call President Lyndon Johnson to commend or fuss with him about his policies.  Or picture a white-haired, vibrant state leader in the 1980’s and 1990’s regularly hosting Lady Bird Johnson and other distinguished friends seated at a long table beside an early 17th century German sideboard with fine antiques at his hill country ranch.  Picture as well, a wiry, outspoken, determined and morally outraged lover of humanity who in the early 1950’s insisted that no county of which he had a part would build a new hospital with a separate wing for treating black citizens, and who promised to spend every cent he had, if necessary, to defeat a hospital bond election unless the hospital accepted people of all colors equally.  Picture, then too, a man who would endow a chair at Rice University and name it after the philosophy professor who had taught his classes to view all religions and peoples with tolerance.  Or picture a banker who kept a small privately-owned lake near his house open to all the children of the town at all times so that they might feel free to fish there. 

 

Put all those pictures together, and you have a partial portrait of the rich diversity and humanity that made up Walter G. Hall, who honored the Philosophical Society of Texas with his long and enthusiastic membership.

 

Walter continued for over 92 years following his birth in 1907.  Those of us who knew him to the end, whenever we first made his acquaintance, knew an individual always charged with energy, fervent with ideas, committed to justice, and loyal to the Democratic Party.  He was a deeply inspired patriot who said that America enabled not only his success, but also the successful development of millions of people whose hopes would have been crushed elsewhere, but whose prosperity and potential were nurtured in a country that believed, as he did deeply, that all are created equal.

 

At age 27 he entered banking as a cashier of Citizens State Bank in League City; twelve years later, when it moved to Dickinson, he became its president.  By the time he served as an organizer of the Texas Independent Bankers Association, he had achieved wealth and status.  Yet many who achieve only those things are forgotten.  It was Walter’s service to his community and to the entire Bay Area, and his personal moral courage and concern for humanity, that made him deeply loved and respected by those holding the humblest and the loftiest positions in our society.  He helped bring water and sewer facilities to League City, and successfully served on commissions that constructed a new courthouse and jail, extended the Galveston seawall, expanded drainage systems, and built new hospitals in Galveston County.  As president of the San Jacinto River Authority, his administration made certain of a reliable water supply to the communities of Galveston County.  Whether working actively to consolidate school districts, to pass bonds for new hospitals, to give land for public parks, to donate a senior citizens building, to urge his friend Vice-President Lyndon Johnson to bring NASA to the Houston-Galveston area, or to support people, openly, financially, vocally, who in his judgment could best fill elected offices, locally or nationally, Walter Hall was always in the forefront of seeking to better the society in which he lived.

 

But a list of titles, achievements, and honors might seem a sterile effort to convey the warmth and decency of this unusual, feisty but convivial man.  Perhaps an anecdote can illuminate at least one moment in his life.

 

After the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that racial segregation was unacceptable at schools in America, communities were expected to conform to the reinterpreted law of the land.  In Dickinson, however, as in many communities, some people sought to maintain the old “separate but equal” philosophy.  Not Walter.  Getting word that a group of militant segregationists planned to appear before the school with shotguns to bar black students from entering, Walter gathered a number of business leaders in his office.  He then phoned the leader of the militant segregationists, who misunderstood Walter’s intent and thought that the prominent banker planned to join his group.  On arriving at Walter’s office, the segregationist was greeted by a group of community leaders led by one irate but determined banker.  Walter told him, “You and your followers can show up with your shotguns if you want to, but we’ll be there with our shotguns too.  Let me tell you that I’m not about to have the town of Dickinson go on national television and have people believe that we will allow a small part of our community to prevent black people from getting an equal education.  There are far more of us than there are of you, and we’re going to be there with our shotguns to assure that they are admitted.”  That meeting ended the protests.  The bigots never showed up.  The schools were peacefully integrated.  But as was the case on many occasions, Walter Hall never hesitated to put his position, his financial resources, or if necessary his life at the forefront of challenge, if that was required to bring justice to a community.

 

The Renaissance painter and biographer Giorgio Vasari, in concluding his Life of Michelangelo, stated, “I consider myself fortunate to have lived in the same time as this great man.”  And then, with deep respect for the incomparable artist, he proudly concluded his biography with the words, “He was my friend, as all the world knows.” 

 

Walter Hall was a friend to presidents and to the poor, to financial and educational leaders and to humble and aspiring people.  And like Vasari, those of us who knew him are proud to claim our friendship with this exceptionally decent and lovable man.

R. C. K.

 


 

 

 DAN MOODY, JR.

1929-2000

 

 Dan Moody, Jr., who passed away peacefully on October 27, 2000, was as near an ideal lawyer and a man as one ever dreams. He had that most precious of all attributes, the profound respect of his peers, those who opposed him in the practice as well as those with whom he worked. Judge James Meyers was quoted as saying in substance that it was just so unfair, so terribly unfair, to go up against Dan Moody because when he stood up with that open, honest face and explained the facts to the hearing examiner or judge and jury, everyone in the room knew he was right, and anybody who stood up and said something to the contrary had to be in error. Within the law firm where he labored for more than 30 years, his sound judgment, his integrity, his mathematical accuracy in financial projections, his passion to come up with the right answer no matter what the cost in time and effort, and his preeminent ability to work effectively with every level of partner and employee were nothing short of phenomenal.

Dan was born January 6, 1929, near the start of his father’s second term as Governor of Texas. Educated in the Austin public schools, he went on to the University of Texas where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in the course of a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in mathematics. Then he went to the School of Law, where he graduated first in his class in 1951 and was selected as Grand Chancellor and Order of the Coif. After working very briefly in his father’s law office and with the Korean War in progress, Dan applied for and obtained a commission as second lieutenant in the Office of the Judge Advocate General in the Air Force. He was first posted to the West Coast. Then he was transferred by that office to the Air Force Command in the Pentagon, where he was subsequently promoted to the rank of first lieutenant. With the war over, Dan returned to Austin and began his legal career with Governor Moody’s firm. There, asked initially by Judge Robertson to take over his oil and gas practice before the Texas Railroad Commission, Dan began the practice that occupied the major focus of his career at the Bar. He said he had no special training for this work but simply learned by observing what was being done in numerous uncontested and contested hearings and how affairs there were being conducted. The result for Dan was a practice characterized by numerous significant cases through the years representing major oil companies and occasionally independent producers. Governor Moody had represented in Railroad Commission and in trial and appellate practice Magnolia Petroleum Company, Royal Dutch Shell and Gulf Oil Company, and as his health failed, Dan, Jr., picked up and continued this representation. Also one of the Governor’s major clients had been the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway Company (the “Katy”), and Dan continued that representation at the trial and appellate levels. Some of these important cases involved railroad crossing accidents, and many were filed and tried in Bastrop County.

Throughout his career, Dan had individual clients whom he represented in family matters, income and estate tax returns, and estate administration. He was regarded as the most dependable counselor and authority in these matters by numerous Old Austin families.

Dan served as Parliamentarian of the Texas Senate during the 1959 Regular Session of the 56th Texas Legislature. During his career he served as President of the Travis County Bar Association during 1967-68, and in 1999 the Travis County Bar honored him with its Distinguished Lawyer award recognizing his distinguished service to the bar and to the legal profession in general.

 

In 1963, after a period of practicing alone because of Governor Moody’s incapacity, Dan employed John E. Clark to help him in the practice. When, in 1966, the firm merged with Graves, Dougherty, Gee & Hearon, the two of them moved from the Capital National Bank Building, where Governor Moody had had his offices on the 12th floor since he began to practice, to the Austin National Bank Building, and the firm became Graves, Dougherty, Gee, Hearon, Moody and Garwood. There Dan, Jr., practiced until his retirement in 1998.

 

Dan was very proud of his heritage of outstanding legal competence, faultless ethics and complete integrity in all of the details of the law practice, and he strove constantly to live up to and exemplify that heritage. In an interview with respect to the firm history, Dan characterized it this way:

 

“But more important to the concept of this firm is the concept that it doesn’t make any difference if it’s a little case that nobody else is ever going to read once it gets published in the Southwestern Reporter, and nobody is ever going to read it again, if it even got there, if it even got to that point, but that it is going to be done right ... I think that in the long run the thing that was more important to the people who went before us, and maybe even for us, was to get it right and to be sure that it was done properly. ... I think that was more important to Judge Graves and to my father than it was that the case be important.”

 

In this goal he surpassed all possible exceptions. Not only in the way he conducted his own affairs, but in the ways he stood ready to help other lawyers in the firm in the details of client representation, he was a consummate role model for all lawyers. All of us who were privileged to know and work with him are better off for that rich experience.

 

J. C. D. III

 


KENNETH SANBORN PITZER

 1914–1997

 

Kenneth Sanborn Pitzer , born January 6, 1914 in Pomona, California, achieved exceptional distinction as a scientist, educator, administrator, and philanthropist. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1935 from the California Institute of Technology and completed his doctoral studies in 1937 at the University of California at Berkeley.           

 

Dr. Pitzer was named the third president of Rice University in 1961. Before moving to Houston, however, he already had a distinguished career. He had served as dean of the College of Chemistry at the University of California at Berkeley. During World War II, he was technical director of the Maryland Research Laboratory of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (1943-45). After the war, he became research director of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (1949-51), and served as a member of the AEC’s General Advisory Committee (1958-65), acting as its chairman during 1960-62. He was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1951 and the Clayton Prize of the Institution of Mechanical Engineering (London) in 1958—Pitzer was regarded as an innovative researcher.           

 

At Rice University, Pitzer was responsible for successfully integrating the school and instituting tuition for the first time. He established a remarkable relationship with noted Houstonian, George R. Brown, founder of Brown & Root. From this association, Mr. Brown, strongly supported by Pitzer and the board of governors, established the Brown Challenge Grant in Engineering, which turned around engineering education at Rice University, and set it on a course that has brought it international recognition in both teaching and scholarship. Mr. Brown had wanted to see Rice students turned into practical engineers who would solve real problems and make life better. Ken Pitzer shared that view and budgeted his time to allow him to oversee the University administration while simultaneously running a research lab. The time he spent in a lab with his students is remembered as “very productive.”  It is said that his vision led to the beginning of studies in bioengineering and mathematical sciences at Rice.           

 

During Pitzer’s presidency, Rice University’s faculty increased more than 50 percent, undergraduate enrollment rose by approximately 33 percent, while graduate enrollment increased nearly 66 percent. The number of doctorates conferred annually grew from 20 to 76. The ties between the Houston area and the American space exploration program also grew, greatly benefiting Rice. In 1962, at Pitzer’s invitation, President John F. Kennedy came to the Rice campus, where he delivered his challenge to the American people to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. In 1965, Rice became the first university to gain approval for designing and building its own earth satellites under the NASA Explorer program.

           

Pitzer left Rice University to return to California as president of Stanford University. Even after retirement from his administrative roles, he continued his research, which was centered on the structure and properties of molecules, especially their thermodynamic behavior. His research has included quantum theory and statistical mechanics as applied to chemical problems ranging from the potential restricting rotation about single bonds, to the bonding in polyatomic carbon molecules, and to the effects of relativity on chemical bonds involving very heavy atoms. In later years he was noted for his advances in the study of electrolyte solutions.

           

He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and recognized with many awards, including the National Medal of Science, the Priestley Medal of the American Chemical Society, the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Chemists, and the Robert A. Welch Award.

           

Kenneth S. Pitzer died December 26, 1997.

C. W. D. Jr.

 


 

CHARLES NELSON PROTHRO
1918-2001

 Charles Nelson Prothro was born in Wichita Falls on January 14, 1918 and resided there all of his life; he died March 5, 2001. His generosity and influence radiated far outside his hometown, to many points in Texas and beyond. The list of important institutions throughout Texas that he and his wife, Elizabeth Perkins Prothro, supported is a long one. Individually and through the Perkins-Prothro Foundation, Southern Methodist University, Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Southwestern University in Georgetown, Sweet Briar College in Virginia, and the University of Texas at Austin, from which he graduated in 1939, all benefited from the family’s philanthropy. He was especially supportive of the University’s Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, where he and the Foundation funded photography endowments and were the major donors for the construction of the Center’s galleries and theater.

 

In addition to his financial generosity, Prothro gave magnanimously of his time and provided wise leadership to those institutions where he served on their boards and advisory committees.

 

Through the years, the Prothros sustained their support of the Perkins School of Theology at SMU, which Elizabeth’s parents, Joe and Lois Perkins, endowed in the 1940s. The family has also donated greatly to countless organizations and agencies in Charles’ hometown of Wichita Falls, where he supported, among many other institutions, the First United Methodist Church and the Hospice of Wichita Falls.

 

Charles’ illustrious business career was marked by his acuity and breadth: he served as managing partner of Perkins-Prothro Co., president and director of Perkins Timberlake department stores, president and director of Ponies Oil, and owner-operator of one of the largest cattle-ranching properties in Oklahoma. In addition, he was engaged in commercial and real estate agencies and several Texas banking institutions.

 

Prothro’s range of interest was remarkable, and his involvement with various groups was deep and diverse. He was a member of the Texas Commission on Higher Education, the Grolier Club of New York, the Philosophical Society of Texas, and even the State Fair of Texas, among many other notable groups, too numerable to mention.

           

Charles Prothro’s interests, both philanthropic and personal, were widely varied, his commitment to supporting people and institutions was profound, and his love of his family and pride in their accomplishments animated much of his life. He strongly believed in giving back to society in the spririt of his many blessings and achievements.

           

On a personal note: what I admired in Charles Prothro was his strong sense of purpose, and his commitment to quality in all that he supported. If you needed help or advice, you could always count on Charles, and as long as you were doing what he thought were the very best things, you would receive his encouragement and support. This generosity, for which many knew and admired Charles, will be appreciated for years and generations to come, as the foundations and institutions he supported so ably continue to do their excellent work, spurred on by his memory.

 

T. F. S.

 



RUEL CARLILE WALKER

1910-1998

 
Judge Ruel Carlile Walker, a retired justice of the Supreme Court of Texas and a consummate and enduring model of person, lawyer and judge for every person whose life he touched or who knew him or even knew of him, passed away on May 9, l998. His membership in this society began in 1958 and continued until his death. His annual attendance at our meetings was interrupted only by declining health near the end.

 

Ruel was born in Cleburne, Texas, the son of William R. Walker and Antoinette Baker. His father was a lawyer who had moved to Cleburne from Adair County, Kentucky after his graduation from the University of Louisville Law School. With his brother-in-law Tyler A. Baker also of Kentucky he founded the firm of Walker & Baker in 1896 and there he practiced for 67 years until his death in 1963.

 

William Ruel Walker’s son, Ruel Carlile attended elementary and high school at Cleburne and then went to Austin College at Sherman, Texas. In 1976, he was honored by that institution as a Distinguished Alumnus and later was awarded an honorary doctorate for his public service. After two years Ruel transferred to The University of Texas, where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and a track manager and was chosen as a Friar. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in the June, 1931 class and graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. degree in 1931. He then enrolled in The University of Texas School of Law. There he was chosen for the Texas Law Review and was its Editor-in-Chief in 1934. Elected as a Chancellor and to the Order of the Coif, he received his LL.B. degree with highest honors in 1934. His class notes and course outlines in Torts, Contracts, Property and other courses were so clearly organized and expressed that, for several years after his graduation, other students sought copies for assistance in their studies.

 

Upon graduation Ruel became a legal investigator for Texas Attorney General James V. Allred and then returned to Cleburne to become a member of his father’s and uncle’s law firm, Walker & Baker. Here, too, he was later joined by his cousin Willard Baker. In addition to a widely varied law practice, Ruel served as Chair of the Cleburne School Board for 14 years, as President of the Rotary Club and as Chair of the Board of Stewards of the First Methodist Church. He served as chairman of the Texas Commission on Higher Education. He also chaired the Johnson County Democratic Party and later became a member of the Executive Committee of the State Democratic Party. During World War II, Ruel served as a lieutenant junior grade in the Unites States Navy.

 

In 1954 Ruel Walker was appointed as an Associate Justice of the Texas Supreme Court by Governor Allen Shivers and he served on our highest court for twenty one years and this, through four elections, without any opposition. His was the highest honor that any judge can attain, the profound respect of his peers. The depth of that respect is shown by some of those with the best opportunity to observe him closely.

 

Of him former Chief Justice Joe Greenhill, who served with him for 18 years, said, “He is one of the very ablest justices ever to serve on this or any other court. He has a fine quick mind, and a memory for legal principles and cases which always amazed me. His opinions are scholarly, accurate and beautifully organized; and he has given literally hundreds of hours to the editing and improving of our rules of civil procedure. In our conferences, his observation and contributions to our discussions have been of great assistance to all of us. When he speaks, all of us listen. If he disagrees with you, he is a worthy and formidable adversary; but I need not tell you that Judge Walker had always been, and is, a person of complete intellectual honesty, and he is always a true gentleman both within and without the Court’s chambers.”

 

Former Chief Justice Jack Pope, who served with him for 10 years recalls, “I remember that one of Justice Walker’s first Supreme Court opinions concerned the meaning of a provision in a complex oil and gas lease. I read the published opinion. I learned that Judge Walker was still the master of ‘The Art of Plain Talk.’ In that first opinion, he used simple words to cut through thickets of legalese. He worked his way through the bramble bushes with sentences free of infinitives, gerunds, empty words, and the passive voice; but had live and kicking verbs. Like his outlines, his opinions made sense. Still later on, in l965, it was my good fortune to join the court on which he was a respected veteran. I had the rare privilege of hearing his oral explanations and defenses of his own writings and his critiques of opinion by the rest of us. I soon learned that his opinions were seldom improved upon. One could agree or disagree, but all the work and research had already been done, and his product seldom needed any editorial improvements...Judge Walker worked hard and he worked carefully. He kept himself completely detached from any personal, social or business involvement that might cast a shadow of an influence or bias about the issues. He acted at all times with absolute independence from anything other than the facts and law. The status in life of the litigants was a matter of concern to him. He could freely render a judgment  for the small as well as the great. To Justice Walker, there was no little cause. To those involved, their case was the most important of all...He was not result oriented. He located the relevant law and precedents and ruled on that basis to whatever and where ever it would lead. He set no hurdles from himself or for others that had to be overcome to reach a correct result. He was always free of prejudgments and any latent bias or prejudice....To be a great judge, one must not only be fair, diligent, dedicated and possess a superior intellect, he must first be a great person. Justice Walker was a great judge, because he was first a great person.”

 

Judge Tom Reavley, who served with Justice Walker for seven years puts it this way: “I raise before you today the example of Ruel Walker as a judge whose work and talent qualifies him for every honor and bench in the land, but who concentrated always on his responsibility of the day without concern for personal consequences. . . . During those years from 1968 to 1975...Judge Walker wrote 76 opinions for the court during...and, except for 10 of those, with unanimous concurrence. He wrote five concurring opinions and eight dissenting opinions. He chaired the rules committee and lead us in that demanding work. Every opinion signed by Ruel Walker was written by him, the first draft coming from his typewriter...A Walker opinion always contributed to a clear understanding of the law.”

 

Not only his fellow judges but also the Briefing Clerks who served the Court during his terms regarded him, in the words of one, John B. Holstead, as “a true ‘Southern gentleman’ in the finest meaning of the term.” Further Holstead recounts, “Back the Court had the practice of allowing its Briefing Clerks to attend all conferences of the Justices and to report to all of the justices on pending Applications for Writs of Error and the results of briefing on particular issues or cases...Sometimes, during the heat of debates over cases, feelings [between the justices] would get bruised and tempers would flare. [Justice Walker] was always the peace maker, and he had a unique ability to bring the opposing factions to a strong majority opinion.”

 

Chief Justice Thomas R. Phillips, who served as the last of his briefing clerks prior to Ruel’s retirement, said of him, “Ruel Walker was truly one of the giants of Texas law. For twenty years as a practicing lawyer and twenty-one years as a Supreme court Justice, he approached every duty that was entrusted to him with industry, intellect, and integrity. He set a standard of excellence no only for the twenty justices with whom he served, but for the thirty-one of us who have followed since on this Court he so loved...Judge Walker served here more than twenty-one years, a tenure exceeded in the Court’s entire history only by three persons?Joe Greenhill, Reuben Gaines and Robert Calvert. Unlike those men, Judge Walker did not become Chief Justice, so that he is the longest tenured Associate Justice. That was his choice. He declined to run to succeed Bob Calvert in 1972, preferring instead to concentrate on crafting opinions and on developing the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure in his capacity as liaison to the Supreme Court Rules Advisory Committee...Judge Walker worked very hard on his opinions, and took great care to polish his drafts before circulating them within the Court for comment. He strove always for clarity and brevity...Judge Walker had a failsafe method for ensuring that his opinions reflected his commitment to careful excellence--he prepared each one from start to finish. When the court was not in conference, Judge Walker could always be found in his chambers library, pecking away on his manual typewriter while he pulled, studied and reshelved Texas reporters.”

 

After Judge Walker’s retirement from the Supreme Court he continued to serve occasionally as a visiting judge in courts throughout the State. There his reputation for superlative performance continued. A young lawyer, Jody Helman, trying a case for his first time before Judge Walker in Hays County in 1978 came away with this impression: “He had such a wonderful demeanor on the bench and he had a mind like a steel trap and just this wonderful kind of reserved sense of humor. I mean it was just really a delight to be in front of him.”

 

When he finally fully retired, Ruel remained active in his church the University United Methodist Church in Austin, continued to play golf and spent his time with his children and grand children. Ruel passed away at the age of 88 on May 9, 1998 and is buried in the Texas State Cemetery at Austin. He is survived by Virginia Sansom Walker, his wife of 64 years, his daughters, Virginia Carmichael of Austin, Texas, and Sara Beth Peacock and her husband Dexter Peacock of Houston, and his son, Ruel Walker of San Francisco, California, and his four grandchildren Shannon Stewart of Austin and Washington, D.C., Laurence Sawyer of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, Philip Peacock of Houston and Walker Peacock of Austin. The family has created the Ruel C. Walker Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Law in his memory at the Law School of The University of Texas at Austin.

 

The climate of our Society is poorer because he is no longer with us.

J. C. D. III


CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT 

1928-2000

 

Charles Alan Wright died at age 72 on July 7, 2000. His passing has been an enormous loss not only to his family and friends but also to the Law School of The University of Texas at Austin, the community in a large sense of the word, the legal profession, the courts of law and its judges and to the many organizations to which he belonged and contributed so much. His accomplishments were so extensive that it will be difficult to do justice to him and them in this short piece.

           

Charlie was born in Philadelphia, graduated from Wesleyan University in 1947 and from the Yale Law School in 1949. He clerked for United States Judge Charles E. Clark on the 2nd Circuit before joining the law faculty at the University of Minnesota in 1951. After four years there Dean Page Keeton induced him to come to the Law School at Austin. He continued there for more than 45 years, retiring officially in 1997 but continuing to teach half time and to hold the Charles Alan Wright Chair in federal courts. In 1999 he was unanimously selected to receive the Law School’s Lifetime Achievement Award which until that time had never been presented to a graduate of another law school.

           

Charlie was so outstanding as a scholar and law teacher that he was often described as an ornament in the crown of the Law School at The University of Texas. The fact that he was there, and stayed there over the years, enhanced the reputation of that law school and no doubt contributed mightily to the attraction and retention of many fine teachers for its faculty.

           

While at the Law School in Austin he was a leader in the efforts in the late 1950s and 1960s to achieve racial integration throughout the University and at other organizations with which he was associated. His scholarship and writings were published beginning with the Yale Law Journal in 1948 and continued over the years with notes, articles, commentaries, books, and treatises throughout his lifetime. He became the leading authority on the rules of federal procedure and practice beginning in 1952 and continuing with new publications, revisions and the extensive treatises on The Law in Federal Courts, Federal Practice and Procedure and Cases and Materials on Federal Courts. His works were in the chambers and libraries in every federal court of the United States and he served for some 18 years on the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, a Judicial Conference Committee of the United States Courts and on its Subcommittee on Federal Jurisdiction.

 

The Honorable Carolyn Dineen King, Chief Judge of the Fifth Circuit, said “Charlie was a quintessential preceptor for the federal courts, but that’s a big word to use when a football metaphor would do the job better. Charlie was our coach. And when it came to coaching federal judges, I can testify, as one, that Charlie was the Vince Lombardi of our coaches. Most of that coaching consisted of his prolific writing as a scholar of federal courts, a scholar who also demonstrated his skill on the field as a star in the courtroom.”

           

Judge King closed her remarks saying: “Now that he has been taken away, there is a place at the table, indeed at the head of the table, of those working to improve the federal judicial system. He will be profoundly missed.”

           

Judge King also said: “Finally, Charlie’s coaching and mentoring of federal judges frequently took place at Judicial Conferences and court events, where he was a regular speaker. In fact, I first met Charlie when he was the principal speaker at a court ceremony many years ago and when, quite clearly but ever so gently, he reminded us that as judges, we are neither Republicans nor Democrats. Charlie’s unswerving fidelity to the law and his absolute integrity always gave his words a special moral force.”

           

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said that “Charlie stands like a Colossus  at the summit of our profession. He was our Colossus.” She added to this following his death: “The great man I once described as a Colossus standing at the summit of our profession was indeed to so many gathered here “the quintessential friend.” I will miss not only his extraordinary scholarship and magnetic advocacy, but above and beyond those qualities, his caring concern for those who joined with him in striving to serve the legal system honorably.”

           

Not all legal scholars are effective advocates. But L. A. (Scot) Powe, Jr., a fellow professor at the Law School in Austin summarized Charlie’s advocacy stating: “If you heard Charlie Wright in any setting making a point, then you know the type of advocate he was: straightforward, totally logical, without rhetorical flourishes. Any listener would realize that a very solid case had been made for his side, one that fully took account of the best arguments of the other side and left the decision-maker with a clear understanding of the issues. Charlie won because he showed so clearly why he should win.”

           

Scot continued: “Charlie argued 13 cases before the Supreme Court, and he won 10 of them, an enviable record, . . . An indication of Charlie’s standing with the Supreme Court is an incident which occurred during the 1970 Term when that Court decided it would decide one more set of death penalty cases . . . this time dealing with the truly ultimate question of whether the death penalty, however practiced, was consistent with the Constitution.” According to Scot Powe there were about 140 death penalty cases “on hold” on the Court’s docket and the Court only wanted to hear one good oral argument and so selected a case where two notable advocates who were the premier death penalty lawyers in the country were arguing for the condemned men. The Court wished these lawyers to be balanced by an outstanding advocate for the States and then, “Operating under the mistaken impression that Texas always was represented at the Court in important cases by Charlie, the Court granted certiorari in Branch v. Texas.” When Texas Attorney General Crawford Martin learned the Court wanted Charlie and not a staff attorney he obtained Charlie’s services to argue this important issue before the United States Supreme Court.

           

The American Law Institute is a long standing, highly respected organization dedicated to study, improvement and restatement of our American laws. At age 30 Charlie Wright, then already an outstanding teacher and scholar, was elected a member of the ALI. For more than 40 years he served this learned body, first as a Reporter for six years on a major project, then on the Institute’s Council and then as a Life Member of the Institute. He served as the Institute’s seventh President for seven years from 1993 to 2000 having been a Vice President for six years prior to that. Michael Traynor, current President of the ALI, stated: “As President, he also served ex officio on all projects and committees, and faithfully attended practically all those meetings. I pronounce ex officio in Charlie’s latinate way, which he had no doubt checked for historical accuracy and which no one ever had the temerity to challenge.” Charlie has been described as a tireless worker to enhance the membership of the ALI with qualified lawyers, judges and teachers who are also women, members of racial minorities or come from nontraditional practice or foreign countries. He is reported to have been a masterful presiding officer at annual meetings and wrote often for its publications including The Practical Lawyer. Michael Traynor also reported that: “Charlie also had an affinity for subjects other than legal ones that offered infinite gradations of nuance, such as football, golf, crime novels, and pocket squares.” Mr. Traynor concluded saying: “To invoke a word he used when paying his highest compliments to persons he esteemed, he was a splendid man, and a splendid President of the American Law Institute.”

          

The echoes of the accomplishments and contributions of Charlie are not all that he left. A bibliography of books, articles, general reviews and reviews of books of fiction together with his contributions on numerous occasions occupy six or seven pages of closely typed description. A mere reading of the titles of books he reviewed beginning in 1982 and extending through September 1999 is monumental in scope, volume and variety.

           

With all that has been said above, how could Charlie have had time or energy to devote himself to anything else. But he did. He was devoted to Custis and their family. He was a dedicated church man, serving on the vestry of the Church of Good Shepherd at Austin, Texas, a regular attendant at its services when he was in Austin and as a representative of Good Shephard on the council of the Diocese when it met annually. He was an active founder, board member and supporter of numerous community organizations such as public radio, public television, the Austin Symphony Orchestra, Austin Lyric Opera and no doubt others. Because of the wisdom he had and his intelligence and ability he was often asked by the Administration of The University of Texas at Austin to serve on committees or to represent the University when hard and divisive questions arose. His interest in football may seem curious to some. He was the coach of a very successful touch football team called the Legal Eagles and expected fine performance and victory from its teams. He was rarely disappointed. In those few instances where the Legal Eagles lost it would be a good idea for any member of his losing team to be well prepared the next day if he was in Charlie’s class. He had a close friendship with Darrell K. Royal and was often asked to represent the University of Texas on councils dealing with intercollegiate athletics.

           

Charlie had been a member of The Philosophical Society of Texas since 1980. Among his numerous contributions was his service as Chairman of the Membership Committee. He recognized that it would be beneficial for the membership to be as widespread and diverse as possible and encouraged that.

           

Clearly, Charlie was brilliant, dedicated, highly efficient and made great contributions in whatever matter, work or institution with which he was involved. A person like this might be impatient or intolerant with others having lesser qualities. He was not, however. While he commanded respect as a towering and imposing figure, physically and mentally, he was not unkind or inconsiderate and did have a subtle humor about him, as his family, friends, associates, students and fellow faculty members were well aware.

           

Charlie’s son, Ted, in his remarks at the Memorial Service for Charlie in July 2000, spoke affectionately of his father and his devotion to his family and to custom and traditions. Ted also spoke of Charlie’s great faith.

          

Those who knew Charles Alan Wright were fortunate. The multitude of those who say how sorely he and his wise counsel will be missed in so many places by family, by members of the bench and bar and by so many friends and associates are exactly right.

 

L.P.L.