Texas legendary attorney Joe Jamail dead at 90

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- People are mourning the loss of a Texas legend. Long-time lawyer and philanthropist Joe Jamail died at the age of 90 Wednesday.

He's donated millions to his alma mater, the University of Texas. The field at the university bears his name. And his impact is far-reaching.

"When I left high school, I went to A&M," Jamail told Melanie Lawson back in 2009. "And I haven't told many people this because I'm not really proud of it. I only stayed there 2 days. I jumped out a window and left."

At that interview, Jamail said he hitchhiked to UT, where he studied pre-med. He flunked out. Then left to join the Marine Corps, and served in World War II.
He came back to school in Lafayette, and then talked his way into law school at UT.

"I couldn't get in because of the grades,' he said. "And the registrar was a real chicken and he wouldn't do anything about it. So I went to see the dean."

The rest is history.

Known for his quickness to drop a curse word or two in the courtroom, he went on to represent Penzoil in a suit against Texaco in the 80s. The jury awarded Penzoil $10.5 billion, the largest in US history.
Jamail kept working, and kept winning, building his fortune. It was a fortune his late wife, Lee, urged him to start giving away.

"I said, 'What do you wanna do, give somebody a million bucks or something?'

She looked at me just like you are and says no honey i'm thinking about 100 million. Of course, I gulped, drank some more of my drink and said, 'You got it girl,'" said Jamail.

The football field at UT is named after him. The swim center is named after him and his wife. They funded scholarships for thousands of UT students.

"People talk about the money I've given to athletics," he said. "I've given a lot to them. But I've given 20 times more to academics and medical research."

Baylor College of Medicine was the biggest recipient of that money.

"There are no vaults where I'm headed, Melanie," said Jamail. "Not up or down."

We will have much more on his life in our afternoon newscasts and here on abc13.com.
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