Matt "Mad Dog" Dawson, legendary trial lawyer and former director of Baylor Law's famed Practice Court Program, turned 96 on Tuesday, March 20. Baylor Law Dean Brad Toben and a contingent of law school faculty celebrated Dawson's birthday at his home at the Overlook in Waco. Joining Toben were Professors Mike Morrison, Jim Wren, Jerry Powell, Noley Bice and Judge Jan Patterson.
"Matt was just thrilled," Dean Toben said. "He told us it was a perfect start to the day."
Dawson served as the director of the Law School's nationally acclaimed Practice Court from 1971 through 1983. He was one of five children born to Dr. J.M. Dawson, a 1904 Baylor graduate and pastor of Waco's First Baptist Church for 32 years, and Willy Turner Dawson, after whom Baylor's Dawson Residence Hall was named. A 1938 Baylor law graduate, Dawson practiced law in Longview for a number of years after graduation in partnership with his classmate, Abner V. McCall, who later served as Baylor's 10th president from 1961-1981.
While director of Practice Court, Dawson was nationally renowned for the success of his mock trial teams, which won two national competitions and nearly every regional competition over a period of 10 years. He also was responsible for starting the tradition of holding mini-trial competitions during his tenure of director of PC. Twice each year Baylor Law awards the "Mad Dog," an 18-inch bronze statuette of Dawson, to the winner of the Wortham Top Gun mini-trial competition. A life-size bronze statue of Dawson is located outside the Practice Court classroom at the law school.
After Dawson retired from teaching in 1983, he resumed his profession as trial lawyer for another two decades. His long list of professional honors include such distinctions as Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers - the first from a small Texas city; Outstanding 50-Year Lawyer, as named by the Texas Bar Foundation; one of Texas Lawyer's 100 Lawyer Legends of the 20th Century; and Texas Monthly's oldest Super Lawyer for 2005, 2006 and 2007.
"Over the more than 65 years of his practice as a trial lawyer, Matt always has held that his greatest achievement and honor has been as a teacher of law at his beloved Baylor Law School," Toben said.
Dawson can be reached at his home at R. Matt Dawson, Esq., 1300 Placid Circle, No. 2207, Waco 76706.