John Eddie Williams Named 2002 Baylor Lawyer Of The YearMarch 7, 2002
by Alan Hunt
Accomplished Houston attorney John Eddie Williams will be honored by Baylor University Law School as its 2002 Baylor Lawyer of the Year. Baylor's Lawyer of the Year award is given annually to an outstanding alumnus who has brought honor and distinction to Baylor Law School and the legal profession.
A 1978 Baylor law graduate, Williams will be recognized during Baylor's annual Law Day banquet on April 6 in the Ferrell Center on campus. He will receive the recognition from Baylor President Robert B. Sloan Jr. and Larry Boyd, president of the Baylor Law Alumni Association. A reception for Williams and his wife, Sheridan, will be held earlier on the concourse of the Ferrell Center.
Williams is managing partner of Williams * Bailey Law Firm L.L.P., of Houston, one of Texas' leading plaintiffs' personal injury firms. The firm's other lead partner is Kenneth Bailey, a University of Houston law graduate. The firm is active in environmental cases, including the representation of plaintiffs in asbestos, silicosis, benzene and toxic waste exposure cases. The firm's lawyers also represent, among other clients, a number of major unions and labor and trade councils in numerous Texas cities and metropolitan areas.
Williams was a member of the five-lawyer "Dream Team" that recovered an historic $17.6 billion settlement for the people of Texas from the tobacco industry. He and two other Baylor lawyers of the "Dream Team," Walter Umphrey and Harold Nix, along with their spouses, have made major gifts to the Baylor Law School's recent capital and endowment campaign. The campaign financed the construction of the new home for the Law School, the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center, built at a cost of $33 million on the banks of the Brazos River. Brad Toben, dean of the Law School, said the impressive new 128,000-square-foot facility provides Baylor with one of the nation's finest law school facilities. A dedication program for the new building will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Law Day (April 6) with Judge Robert Parker of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals as the speaker.
A native Houstonian and the son of a longshoreman, Williams grew up in Pasadena and attended schools there. His father later became the secretary-treasurer of the Longshoremen's Union, representing more than 15,000 members in an area from North Carolina to Brownsville, Texas. A standout football player at Pasadena High School, Williams entered Baylor on a football scholarship after being recruited by then-Head Coach Grant Teaff. Williams played football for Baylor for about two years and received a bachelor of business degree in 1976.
At Baylor Law School, he finished first in his class, served as editor-in-chief of the Baylor Law Review, and passed the Texas State Bar Exam 15 days before he graduated from law school. Williams is married to the former Sheridan Clark. Mrs. Williams is the owner of the Houston interior design firm, Sheridan Clark Interiors. She has two daughters, Kristen and Lauren.
Toben said Williams exemplifies the criteria for the award. Toben said, "John Eddie and the other lawyers at his firm are the frequent champions of so many who are at the margin of our economy and at the fringe of our society." Toben described Williams' record of service to the people of Texas as "thoroughly impressive" and the gifts of the Williamses as "philanthropy that genuinely transforms an institution, allowing us to do for our students that which we before could not even contemplate. The Williamses represent the best of what is possible when we truly invest ourselves in the lives of others."
The Baylor Lawyer of the Year presentation will climax a week of Law Day activities, and includes a keynote banquet address by former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, who will deliver the Baylor Law School's annual John William and Florence Dean Minton Endowed Lecture.
Reunions will be held during the day for the following class years: 1936-37, 1941-42, 1947, 1951-52, 1956-57, 1961-62, 1966-67, 1971-72, 1976-77, 1981-82, 1986-87, 1991-92, and 1996-97. For more information, call (254) 710-4842.