WACO, Texas -
Baylor Law’s Professor Jerry Powell (JD ’77) has been selected by the Texas Young Lawyers Association to receive the 2020 Outstanding Mentor of Texas award for his tireless dedication to training, mentoring, and guiding young lawyers. The Outstanding Mentor Award, given annually since 2007, recognizes one attorney each year who has consistently demonstrated a commitment to mentoring young lawyers in his or her legal community.
A Baylor Lawyer who has served on the faculty for thirty-five years, Powell has served as the Director of Baylor Law's highly acclaimed Practice Court Program. He also has served as the Judge Abner V. McCall Professor of Evidence Law, and since 2005, has held Baylor University’s coveted Master Teacher designation, the highest honor granted to Baylor faculty members.
“Professor Powell has shaped and influenced my life in more ways than we have time for me to describe. I would not be here, literally, if it were not for him. He has opened doors for me and mentored me at each step in my life. Words cannot adequately describe my gratitude,” stated Baylor Law’s Assistant Dean of Student Affairs and Pro Bono Programs Stephen Rispoli who nominated Powell for this year’s award. Former student and now co-Practice Court professor Elizabeth Fraley added, “Perhaps no one has influenced my career more than Powell. He taught me evidence and advocacy. He taught me courage and character. He is the mentor I most trust and value, and he is most deserving of this award.”
Baylor Law’s Dean Brad Toben noted, “Few individuals have had such an immense impact on the training of young lawyers as Jerry Powell. It has been an honor and a privilege to witness the work of this master teacher in the classroom and courtroom.” The President of the Texas Young Lawyers Association, Jeanine Rispoli (JD ’11) observed, “Powell is both brilliant and terrifying in the classroom and courtroom. What I can see so clearly though is his genuine love for what he does and helping others. He sees potential in us even when we don’t, especially when we don’t, and he doesn’t let us give up.”
Earning his bachelor's degree from Baylor in 1974, Powell received his Baylor Law degree with honors in 1977. As a law student, he was a member of the National Mock Trial Team and executive editor of the Baylor Law Review. Following graduation, he joined the Dallas law firm of Vial, Hamilton, Koch & Knox, where he had an active trial and appellate practice with the firm and was made a partner in 1982. Four years later, Powell returned to Baylor Law School to teach, and in 1987, he was appointed the Abner V. McCall Professor of Evidence Law. Powell is an associate of the American Board of Trial Advocates and was appointed by the President of the State Bar of Texas to the Court Reorganization Task Force. He has served on the Administration of Rules of Evidence Committee for the State Bar of Texas.
He has written and spoken extensively on evidence, procedure, and trial advocacy topics and has co-authored two books on Texas evidence, A Practical Guide to the Texas Rules of Civil Evidence and Texas Rules of Civil Evidence with Objections. His first fiction book, a courtroom drama, of course, The Sporting House Killing: A Gilded Age Legal Thriller was released in early 2021.
Professor Powell has also been actively engaged in the Waco community. In addition to his teaching duties at the law school, Professor Powell teaches adult education classes to senior citizens, helped establish and fund the Doris Miller Memorial, and was active in Boy Scouts for many years. For many years, Professor Powell has volunteered to teach history classes for the local “Lifelong Learners.” Through these classes, Professor Powell teaches senior citizens. He also includes them in Baylor Law’s Practice Court program as jurors in the mock trial exercises for our law students. All told, Professor Powell has shaped thousands of lives and has had an immeasurably positive impact upon our community and the legal profession.
In October of 2020, Powell was honored with the 2020 Outstanding Mentor Award by the Waco-McLennan County Young Lawyers Association.
Prof. Powell recently shared his thoughts on the 100th Anniversary of Practice Court on ‘Baylor Connections,’ available on NPR podcasts, here: https://www.npr.org/podcasts/596450594/baylor-connections
“Whether it was on a backpacking trip or a canoe trip, Mr. Powell allowed many young men, including myself, to step up and lead and then learn from our many successes and many mistakes. His calm demeanor and strong intellect allowed for excellent feedback and mentoring sessions that developed us into resilient men of character who could lead when needed but also humbly follow,” stated David Tipton, Capt. USAF, former Boy Scout under Scoutmaster Jerry Powell.
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