Albuquerque Attorney Lauded As Baylor Lawyer Of The Year

  • News Photo 1272
    Turner Branch, 2003 Baylor Lawyer of the Year, left, in conversation with Dean Emeritus Angus McSwain. (Alan Hunt photo)
  • News Photo 1271
    U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards of the 11th Congressional District of Texas was the keynote speaker at Baylor Law School's annual Law Day banquet. (Alan Hunt photo)
April 15, 2003

by Alan Hunt

A capacity crowd of Baylor law alums, friends, faculty, staff and students of Baylor Law School honored leading Albuquerque and New Mexico attorney Turner W. Branch Saturday as the 2003 Baylor Lawyer of the Year. The award is given annually to an outstanding alumnus who has brought honor and distinction to Baylor Law School and the legal profession.

Branch, a 1965 Baylor law graduate, was recognized during Baylor Law School's annual Law Day banquet in the Ferrell Center. He received the recognition from Robert D. Barkley of Dallas, president of the Baylor Law Alumni Association, and Law School Dean Brad Toben.

A nationally known trial attorney who has won recognition for his skills in the courtroom and his legal achievements, Branch is a native New Mexican and completed his undergraduate degree at the University of New Mexico. He served on active duty as an officer in the United States Marine Corps before enrolling in Baylor Law School in 1963. He and his wife, Margaret, founded the Branch Law Firm in Albuquerque in 1966. He currently serves as the Out-of-State Lawyer Liaison on the Board of Directors for the Texas State Bar and as Senior Counsel of the American College of Barristers.

Describing them as "a class team," Dean Toben said Turner and Margaret Branch are universally recognized in the profession as lawyers of the very highest caliber. Toben said, "Everything they do in their work and in their lives they do with a passion for excellence."

Turner and Margaret Branch announced a few years ago a seven-figure gift to Baylor Law School to underwrite the construction of a practice courtroom at Baylor's Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center, which opened for classes in August 2001. The finely appointed courtroom facility is known as the Turner and Margaret Moses Branch Courtroom. The Branch's generous gift also was used to underwrite a student scholarship program at Baylor Law School.

The Baylor Lawyer of the Year presentation climaxed a week of Law Day activities at Baylor Law School. The keynote address at the Law Day banquet was presented by U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards of the 11th Congressional District of Texas, who delivered the law school's annual John William and Florence Dean Minton Endowed Law School Lecture. Edwards spoke on the topic, ""Church-State Separation: America's Legacy at Risk."

Edwards said many people of good faith in America don't understand what the relationship of church-state separation has been to protecting religious values in America. "Good people just simply don't understand what church-state separation means," he said, "and too many good people in America believe that church-state separation means government has a conviction to undermine religion and religious values in America. Nothing, nothing could be further from the truth. I thank God that (U.S. Presidents) Madison and Jefferson understood that the lesson of all of human history is that government involvement in religion harms religion and religious freedom. It doesn't help it. That's the lesson we need to do a better job of teaching to Americans."

He said many people "don't understand that church-state separation doesn't mean keeping people's faith out of government; it does mean keeping the government out of our faith."

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