The death of legendary Texas lawyer Joe Jamail was announced on the popular Texas radio show Pratt On Texas yesterday afternoon, Wednesday, December 23, 2015. Pratt, who sometimes broadcasts live from Wichita Falls, Texas, further said Jamail was nicknamed the “King of Torts” based largely on his role in the landmark Pennzoil v. Texaco lawsuit. A graduate of the University of Texas, Jamail has the field on which the Longhorns play, named for him.
Jamail, one of the most successful lawyers the Lone Star State has ever experienced, reportedly bragged he flunked civil negligence in law school and barely passed the bar exam, according to the New York Times yesterday, December 23, 2015. The brilliant courtroom attorney was 90 years of age. He was the lead lawyer when Pennzoil won an astonishing $10.5 billion award against Texaco in 1985. It was a verdict which reverberated through the legal community around the globe. At the time it was the largest verdict in history.
His death was announced on the University of Texas website. He was a major benefactor to the Austin school and took a close interest in the university’s activities. He was seen with former Texas coach Darrell Royal who led the Longhorns to their first national championship in 1963 with a 28-7 whipping of Navy in the Cotton Bowl.
His extraordinary career spanned five decades and included more than 500 lawsuit victories and $13 billion in judgments and settlements for his clients. He sued corporations including Firestone Tire & Rubber, General Motors, Eli Lilly and RCA. But it was the case against Texaco which raised his stature to mythical status. Pennzoil accused Texaco of improperly interfering with its 1984 deal to buy part of Getty Oil. Texaco’s net worth was only equal to the amount of the judgment. Texaco filed for bankruptcy and settled the case for $3 billion in 1987. Jamail’s fee was reduced to $345 million. Still not a bad payday.
Jamaal worked for a contingency fee in his cases, usually one-third of the amount the client won. He was born on October 19, 1925, to Joseph and Marie Anton Jamail. His father was a Lebanese immigrant who arrived in Houston as a boy and sold food from a cart before building a chain of grocery stores.
Jamail died from complications resulting from pneumonia, according to KVUE and the Austin American-Statesman. The Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center is named in his honor. Known to be an extremely generous man, he donated over $232 million to several philanthropic causes and universities. The University of Texas was the recipient of countless donations from the Joe and Lee Jamail Foundation.
Jamail and Royal met during the recruiting of All-American tackle Bobby Wuensch. Bobby’s mother was best friends with Lee Jamail, wife of Joe Jamail. They persuaded him to go to Texas instead of Texas A&M. That’s when the Royal-Jamail friendship was born. Jamail reportedly spent a lot of his resources to insure members of the 1969 national championship team were able to have frequent reunions over the years.
Former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy said, “It’s very sad to hear of Joe Jamail’s passing. We all enjoyed when Coach (Mack) Brown would bring him by practice to spend time with us. He was so much fun to be around, and he treated all of us like we were a part of his family.”
The University of Texas has lost one of the best friends the school has ever had in the passing of the legendary lawyer Jamail.