The UT Austin Tower will shine with all orange lights and a double “J” on its sides tonight in memory of distinguished alumnus Joe Jamail.
Jamail, a philanthropist and one of the most successful trial attorneys in U.S. history, would have celebrated his 91st birthday today. Born Oct. 19, 1925, in Houston, Jamail often credited UT Austin’s role in his professional success, telling ESPN in 2012, “They took a chance on me.”
On the Forty Acres, Jamail initially took pre-med classes before World War II interrupted. He delayed his studies in 1943 to join the U.S. Marines Corps. After serving in the South Pacific, Jamail returned to campus and enrolled in the School of Law, jumpstarting a career full of landmarks.
His success earned him the nickname “the King of Torts,” and Texas Monthly dubbed him “Trial Lawyer of the Century.” Jamail won a verdict of $10.53 billion in the Pennzoil vs. Texaco case in 1985, at the time the largest jury award in history. His legal work led to several major product recalls and verdicts topping $100 million each.
“Joe Jamail is a legend, and ever more so at our great university,” President Gregory L. Fenves said after Jamail’s death last year. “UT Austin lost a great friend.”
Jamail, BA ’50, JD ’53, and his late wife Lee showed their gratitude to UT Austin by giving generously to the university. The majority of their gifts went to academics at the School of Law, the School of Nursing, and more than a dozen other units on campus. They also gave generously to Texas Athletics.
“Joe’s contributions to The University of Texas are a lasting legacy and testament to his never ending quest to give back and support activities, the law and sports he believed in,” Texas Men’s Athletics Director Mike Perrin said after Jamail’s death last year.
The Jamail name is attached to many endowments, scholarships and buildings on campus, including the Joseph D. Jamail Center for Legal Research, the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center and Joe Jamail Field at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.
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