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UT Austin Mourns the Death of Joe Jamail

UT Austin mourns the death of Distinguished Alumnus and major philanthropist Joe Jamail.

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Joe Jamail, renowned attorney, philanthropist and Distinguished Alumnus of The University of Texas at Austin, died Dec. 23 at age 90. 

“UT Austin lost a great friend,” said Gregory L. Fenves, president of the university.

Jamail, BA ’50, JD ’53, was one of the most successful trial attorneys in U.S. history. Born Oct. 19, 1925, in Houston, he often credited UT Austin’s role in his professional success, telling ESPN in 2012, “They took a chance on me.”

Jamail initially took pre-med classes at UT Austin before joining the U.S. Marines Corps in 1943 and serving in the South Pacific.

After the war, Jamail returned to UT Austin, attending the School of Law before embarking on a career full of landmarks. He 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. His success earned him the nickname “the King of Torts,” and Texas Monthly dubbed him “Trial Lawyer of the Century.” 

Jamail 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 Jamail

Jamail and the Longhorn Band give President. Fenves a warm welcome on his first day. Photo by Marsha Miller

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.

“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,” said Texas Men’s Athletics Director Mike Perrin.

Fenves, who counted Jamail as one of his closest advisers, added that, “Lee and Joe aspired for UT to be the best university in the country with the highest values of integrity and service. We will all miss both of them very much and will forever be grateful for their generosity of spirit.”