For its 25th anniversary issue, Texas Lawyer magazine asked for nominations for the greatest Texas lawyers from the past quarter century. From the nearly 500 nominations they received, the editors selected a list of the top 25 — a list that includes two Baylor Bears.
Walter Umphrey jumps out as a Baylor name — after all, the beautiful facility on the Brazos River that Baylor Law calls home is the Sheila & Walter Umphrey Law Center. He earned his BBA from Baylor in 1959 and his JD in 1965 before launching Provost Umphrey Law Firm in Beaumont in 1969. Umphrey’s name became widely known even outside of legal circles in the late 1990s, when he led a team of lawyers that tackled the tobacco industry on behalf of the state of Texas; the case ended with a $17.3 billion settlement in 1998. Now in his mid 70s, he remains actively involved with Provost Umphrey as managing partner.
Kelly Shackelford followed the same path as Umphrey a generation later, earning his BBA from Baylor in 1985 and his JD in 1988. He today heads the Liberty Institute, a non-profit organization founded “to educate, advocate, and, when necessary, litigate for freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution,” from freedom of speech to religious freedom to parental and student rights. The group is one of the few in the country to employ full-time Constitutional attorneys working religious freedom cases.
Sic ’em, Baylor lawyers!