Joseph Dahr Jamail, Jr. (October 19, 1925 – December 23, 2015) was an American attorney and billionaire. The wealthiest practicing attorney in America, he was frequently referred to as the “King of Torts”. In 2011, his net worth was estimated to be $1.5 billion, making him the 833rd richest person in the world. Joseph Jamail died on December 23, 2015 in Houston.
Early life and education
Jamail was born to a Lebanese family. He was a graduate of St. Thomas High School in Houston, Texas. He attended the The University of Texas at Austin (UT) for one semester before joining the United States Marine Corps in 1943.
After serving in the Pacific during World War II, Jamail returned to UT, where he received his B.A. in 1950 and The University of Texas Schoolof Law where he received his J.D.in 1953. In 1986 The University of Texas School of Law created the Joseph D. Jamail Centennial Chair in Law and Advocacy in his honor. His son is also a practicing lawyer in Texas.
In 1985, Jamail represented Penzoil, whose CEO Hugh Liedtke was Jamail’s close friend,in a lawsuit against Texaco. Pennzoil won the case and his contingency fee was $335 million.
Jamail was known for his passionate, aggressive, sometimes abrasive advocacy on behalf of his clients; a tendency that has been noted in the National Law Journal, by the Supreme Court of Delaware as well as other sources. On its own motion, having reviewed deposition transcripts in the Paramount case, the Delaware Supreme Court referred to Jamail’s conduct as “rude, uncivil and vulgar”, “abusing the privilege of representing a witness in a Delaware proceeding”, 637 A.2d. 34, at 53, as displaying “an astonishing lack of professionalism and civility”, and as “outrageous” and as “unacceptable”, for statements to deposing counsel such as “you could gag a maggot off a meat wagon”. 637 A2d. 34, at 54. The Court included its admonition of Jamail in an Addendum to its opinion “as a lesson for the future—a lesson of conduct not to be tolerated or repeated.” 637 A2d. 34, at 52. In April 2006, a particularly sharp exchange, titled “Joe Jamail takes a deposition defended by Edward Carstarphen. Hilarity ensues” or “Texas-Style Deposition”, appeared on various and internet sites (particularly related to American law). Following a reprimand by the Delaware Supreme Court, Jamail stated in the press “I’d rather have a nose on my ass than go to Delaware for any reason”.
Jamail made large donations to Rice University and The University of Texas at Austin. The football field at Darrell K. Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium is named Joe Jamail Field in his honor, and so is the Joseph D. Jamail, Jr. Pavilion at The University of Texas School of Law. Also located on the University of Texas campus is the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center, named for .him and his wife. The University has erected two statues on campus in his honor.
On May 14, 2008, The University of Texas at Austin announced a $15 million gift from Joe Jamail to support the Law School, Nursing School, and the College of Undergraduate Studies. In response to the gift, the university has renamed a large meeting room in the tower building to the Lee Hage Jamail Academic Room.
In 2008, the Lee and Joe Jamail Skate park opened near downtown Houston. It was a $2.7 million project. The park is public and covers over 40,000 square feet (3,700 m2).
On April 27, 2011, The San Marcos Baptist Academy announced a $1 million gift from Joe Jamail to help establish a fund to build a special event center on the Academy campus in memory of Jamail’s wife, Lee, who graduated from San Marcos Academy in 1944.