Baylor Honors 'Dream Team' Leader

April 14, 1999

by Alan Hunt

Walter Umphrey, legendary Beaumont lawyer and Texas "Dream Team" leader, was honored April 10 by hundreds of his fellow Baylor lawyers and friends during the Baylor Law School's annual Law Day banquet at the Ferrell Center.

Umphrey, who led the five-lawyer Texas legal team that recovered an historic $17.6 billion settlement for the people of Texas from the tobacco industry, was recognized as the 1999 Baylor Lawyer of the Year.

Law Dean Brad Toben said Umphrey, a 1965 Baylor law graduate, "truly lives and exemplifies" the criteria for the Lawyer of the Year award, which is given annually to an outstanding alumnus who has brought honor and distinction to Baylor Law School and the legal profession.

Earlier during the Law Day program, a capacity crowd attended groundbreaking ceremonies for the planned new home for the Law School, the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center, being built at a cost of approximately $28 million on the banks of the Brazos River. Umphrey and his wife have made a gift of $10 million toward the new building.

The project is part of the Law School's recently announced $35 million capital and endowment campaign. Toben said the campaign will underwrite both the new law center and program enhancements that will ensure the continued future excellence of Baylor Law School.

Two other "mega" gifts have been made by Harold Nix, also a 1965 graduate of the Law School, and his wife, Carol Ann, of Daingerfield, and John Eddie Williams, a 1978 law graduate, and his wife, Sheridan, of Houston. Both Nix and Williams were members of the Texas Dream Team. Significant components of the new facility and the school's academic program will be named in honor of the Nixes and the Williamses, who have each made gifts of $5 million.

Members of the Nix and Williams families joined Walter and Sheila Umphrey in performing the groundbreaking, together with Baylor President Dr. Robert B. Sloan, Jr. and W. Fred Cameron, chairman of the Baylor Board of Regents. Toben said the Umphreys, Nixes and Williamses, who all came from humble backgrounds, "have captured our dream." He said, "They have a vision for the Law School for the next century. They are the ones who have made it possible for all of us."

The 121,000-square-foot building, which will be located adjacent to Fort Fisher, will include classrooms, practice courtrooms, the law library, computer labs, seminar and meeting rooms, faculty and administrative offices, and common areas. The new building is expected to be completed in time for the Law School to move in the academic year beginning in Fall 2001.

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