Reliably Austin
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Larger-Than-Life Lawyer and Major UT Austin Supporter Joe Jamail Dead at 90

Screenshot via Youtube
A screenshot of Jamail from a UT Austin-produced video bio.

He was a larger-than-life lawyer and a major supporter of the University of Texas at Austin. Word came from Houston this morning that Joe Jamail has passed away at the age of 90 from complications with pneumonia.

Jamail graduated from UT Austin in 1950 and then got his law degree from UT in 1953. His long and colorful legal career – he has been called the “King of Torts” – included his almost $10.5 billion verdict in the Pennzoil v. Texaco case

A video produced by UT Austin tells more about Jamail's life:

“The goal is when you walk in a courtroom and you’ve got a jury, you want to make it look easy, like Joe DiMaggio playing center field,” he said.

By all accounts, he did make it look easy. Jamail is sometimes referred to as the greatest trial lawyer in American history.

This video, posted on youtube by iowapublicdefender, showcases Jamail's (he's the one off-screen to the right) big personality and famously colorful use of language (there is some explicit words spoken in this video): 

Jamail has given millions of dollars to UT Austin. The Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center is named in his honor. The Longhorns play football on Joe Jamail field at Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium. 

“I can tell you this. If I got into any kind of legal situation, the first call I’d make would be Joe. And you know what it would cost me? Zero,” the late Texas football coach Darrell Royal said of Jamail.

Jamail has also given millions to the law school and for law, nursing, and undergraduate advising. UT Austin President Greg Fenves calls Jamail a “great friend” and a legend.

Jennifer Stayton is the local host for NPR's "Morning Edition" on KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on X @jenstayton.