The Honorable J. Rodney Gilstrap Named 2018 Baylor Lawyer of the Year

April 30, 2018

Honorable J. Rodney Gilstrap Named the 2018 Baylor Lawyer of the Year

The Honorable Jeffrey L. Cureton (J.D. '93), U.S. Magistrate Judge, Northern District of Texas and President of the Baylor Law Alumni Association, presents Judge J. Rodney Gilstrap with the 2018 Baylor Lawyer of the Year Award in Longview, TX on April 26, 2018


The Honorable J. Rodney Gilstrap, J.D. ‘81, Chief District Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, has been selected by the Baylor Law Alumni Association Executive Committee as the 2018 Baylor Lawyer of the Year.

The event speakers, (L-R) Senator Kirk P. Watson (J.D. '81), Texas Senate District 14; Frederick D. McClure (J.D. '81), Executive Director, The Leadership Initiative, Texas A&M; Judge J. Rodney Gilstrap (J.D. '81); Judge Jeffrey L. Cureton (J.D. '93), U.S. Magistrate Judge, Northern District of TX; Dean Brad Toben, Baylor Law School

To honor Judge Gilstrap, Baylor Law hosted a luncheon at Pinecrest Country Club in Longview, TX on April 26. Judge Gilstrap’s court is one of the highest profile in the nation for intellectual property litigation and, by far, the busiest. In 2017, he oversaw 555 cases, while the next closest judge saw less than half that number, with just under 270. Judge Gilstrap is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and, during his time at Baylor Law, was associate editor of the Baylor Law Review. He previously served as president of the Baylor Law Alumni Association.

"Judge Gilstrap has exemplified the characteristics of a Baylor Lawyer and is richly deserving of this recognition," said Baylor Law Dean Brad Toben. "His impact in the intellectual property domain is profound. Judge Gilstrap has a reputation as a hard-working jurist with a fervent devotion to fairness and justice, along with an unwavering support of the jury system," Toben said.

Judge Gilstrap has contributed unceasingly to advancing practice-ready Baylor Lawyers though his support of Baylor Law. He consistently hires judicial clerks from Baylor Law, his current clerk is a Baylor Lawyer, and he has hired a Baylor Law student as his clerk for 2019. He has participated as a faculty member in Baylor Law’s Academy of the Advocate in St Andrews, Scotland, and was instrumental in coordinating Baylor Law's Viewpoints program on patent litigation in Washington D.C.

The Honorable J. Rondey Gilstrap shares with attendees about what Baylor Law, and being named Baylor Lawyer of the Year, means to him.

After graduating from Baylor Law, Judge Gilstrap entered private practice with Abney, Baldwin & Searcy, in Marshall, TX. He later became a founding partner of Smith & Gilstrap in 1984. He served as Harrison County Judge, an elected position, from 1989 to 2002. Judge Gilstrap served 16 years on the Courthouse Preservation Council in Marshall, overseeing the rehab of the historic county courthouse, and served as the Chair of the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee of the State Bar of Texas. Judge Gilstrap was nominated by President Barack Obama and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate in December 2011 as United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Texas. During his confirmation hearing, then-Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Dallas, said in a statement, “His public service and strong academic credentials combined to make him a strong choice for this judgeship in East Texas." He has served as Chief Judge of the Eastern District since March 1, 2018.

Judge Gilstrap is a man of faith and a model of integrity. He lives the life of a servant-leader. Our federal judiciary is blessed by his presiding over one of the highest-profile federal district courts in the nation."
–Dean Brad Toben, Baylor Law

Speaking of his Baylor Lawyer of the Year award, Judge Gilstrap stated, “Being chosen as the 56th Baylor Lawyer of the Year is a significant event in my life. It places me in a class of distinguished lawyers, judges, and law professors that, as a law student, I would have never dreamed might someday include me. I recognize full well that my relationships and experiences practicing law and on the bench have allowed me to ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’ from within our profession. Those influences are a large part of why this recognition has come my way. I am reminded now, as I often am, that every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down to us from the Father. I am deeply honored to be named as the 2018 Baylor Lawyer of the Year.”

Judge Gilstrap is a proud Eagle Scout and is listed in Who's Who in American Law and Who's Who in America, and is an avid beekeeper.

About the Baylor Lawyer of the Year Award

The Baylor Lawyer of the Year Award is given annually to an outstanding alumnus/a who has brought honor and distinction to Baylor Law and to the legal profession. Recipients are selected based on the following criteria:

    1. The nominee's legal ability and achievements as a lawyer;
    2. The nominee's contributions to the legal profession;
    3. The nominee's standing in the profession;
    4. The nominee's Christian character;
    5. The nominee's civic, religious and other attainments; and
    6. The nominee's active interest in Baylor Law.

Past Recipients

Past Baylor Lawyers of the Year in attendance to celebrate with Judge Gilstrap: (L-R) Dean Leah Teague, Harold Nix (2001); T. John Ward (2004); David M. Guinn (2013); John Eddie Williams (2002); George Chandler (2009); John H. Minton Jr. (1981); J. Rodney Gilstrap (2018); Ed Kinkeade (2010); Dean Brad Toben

Past Baylor Lawyers of the Year

2017 - Murray Watson Jr.

2016 - T. Albert Witcher

2015 - Jerry K. Clements

2014 - Bill Brian

2013 - David M. Guinn

2012 - Leonard E. Davis

2011 - Steve McConnico

2010 - Ed Kinkeade

2009 - George Chandler

2008 - Joe E. Coleman

2007 - Sam R. Cummings

2006 - Noley R. Bice, Jr.

2005 - Wyatt H. Heard

2004 - T. John Ward

2003 - Turner W. Branch

2002 - John Eddie Williams

2001 - Harold Nix

2000 - Louis Muldrow

1999 - Walter Umphrey

1998 - Gordon L. Hollon

1997 - James M. "Jim" Farris

1996 - Jack Hightower

1995 - John T. Boyd

1994 - Bob Bullock

1993 - Bill Logue

1992 - Rex Houston

1991 - Sam B. Hall, Jr.

1990 - Edwin P. Horner

1989 - George M. Cowden

1988 - William S. Sessions

1987 - R. Matt Dawson

1986 - Robert Maurice Campbell

1985 - Bill D. Daniel

1984 - Angus S. McSwain, Jr.

1983 - Wayne Fisher

1982 - Clarence A. Guittard

1981 - John H. Minton, Jr.

1980 - Cullen Smith

1979 - Howard F. Saunders

1978 - Connally McKay

1977 - William J. Boswell

1976 - Claude Williams

1975 - Gibson Gayle, Jr.

1974 - Jim D. Bowner

1973 - Truman E. Roberts

1972 - Charles W. Barrow

1971 - W.R. "Bob" Poage

1970 - Morris Harrell

1969 - Thomas C. Mann

1968 - Frank M. Wilson

1967 - Victor W. Bouldin

1966 - Abner V. McCall

1965 - M. Price Daniel

1964 - Leon Jaworski

1963 - A.J. Folley

Nominations for Baylor Lawyer of the Year

Baylor Law will accept nominations for the 2019 Baylor Lawyer of the Year through December 1, 2018. The Executive Committee of the Baylor Law Alumni Association will review all materials received for each nominee.

To submit a nomination for the 2019 Baylor Lawyer of the Year, please send a nomination letter describing why the nominee meets the above criteria to:

Dean Brad Toben
Baylor University School of Law
One Bear Place #97288
Waco, Texas 76798

MEDIA CONTACT: Ed Nelson, Director of Marketing & Communications
PHONE: 254-710-6681

Established in 1857, Baylor Law was one of the first law schools in Texas and one of the first west of the Mississippi River. Today, the school has more than 7,400 living alumni. It is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Baylor Law has a record of producing outstanding lawyers, many of whom decide upon a career in public service. Baylor Law boasts two governors, members or former members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, two former directors of the FBI, U.S. ambassadors, federal judges, justices of the Texas Supreme Court and members of the Texas Legislature among its notable alumni. In its law specialties rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Baylor Law’s trial advocacy program as one of the top 5 in the nation. Baylor Law School is also ranked #50 in the magazine’s 2019 edition of "America’s Best Graduate Schools." The National Jurist ranks Baylor Law as one of the "Best School for Practical Training," and #4 in the nation in its most recent "Best Law School Facilities" listing. The Business Insider places Baylor Law among the top 50 law schools in the nation. Baylor Law School received the 2015 American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award, making it only the third law school in the nation to be honored with the award since the award's inception in 1984. Learn more at

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Learn more at

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