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VOL. 123 | NO. 159 | Thursday, August 14, 2008

U of M to Honor Legal Pillars Of Excellence

By Rebekah Hearn

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The University of Memphis Law School Alumni Chapter will honor four of the legal community’s leaders Saturday during its “Striving for Excellence: Pillars of Excellence” ceremony at the Holiday Inn-University of Memphis.

The honorees this year are Walter Bailey, attorney and former Shelby County Board of Commissioners member; W. Emmett Marston, director and shareholder at Martin, Tate, Morrow & Marston PC; John Thomason, retired attorney and founder of Thomason Hendrix Harvey Johnson & Mitchell PLLC; and Lee Winchester, partner at The Winchester Law Firm.

John Stokes, vice chairman of Morgan Keegan & Co., also will be honored as a Friend of the Law School.

A reception will begin at 6 p.m. and the dinner and ceremony at 7 p.m.

Pillars in the field

This is the second year the alumni chapter has held the event. Last year it honored 16 recipients. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., will be the keynote speaker at this year’s ceremony.

“They’re icons in the legal community, all of them,” said Lew Wardlaw, event co-chair and a member of the chapter’s board of directors. “They’re what every lawyer in Memphis and beyond should strive to be. We are trying to acknowledge and recognize in a broader sense the leaders in the legal profession that shape the practice of law in Memphis.”

Bailey currently practices law with two of his four children at The Walter Bailey Law Firm. He served as a lawyer in the Shelby County school desegregation case and also served on the American Civil Liberties Union’s national board. In addition, Bailey represented Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1968 sanitation strike in Memphis.

Marston was admitted to the Mississippi bar in 1953 and the Tennessee bar in 1955. Some of his notable activities include serving as a fellow of the American College of Real

Estate Lawyers and the American College of Mortgage Attorneys, and he also served as a member of the board of directors for The American Bar Retirement Association in 2001.

His alma mater has honored him as well: Marston was admitted to the University of Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame in 1994, and was named the University of Mississippi Law Alumnus of the Year in 1981.

Thomason is chairman of the Tennessee Appellate Nominating Commission and is also chairman of the General Practice Section of the American Bar Association. He received the Memphis Bar Association’s Lawyer’s Lawyer Award, the MBA’s highest award for an attorney, in 2002.

Winchester served as Shelby County attorney from 1961 to 1963. He is a member of the Tennessee Bar Central Council and was a special justice on the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1978.

In addition to the four pillars, U of M Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law professor Janet Richards will receive the Alumni’s Excellence in Teaching Award.

“(The award) is meant to recognize service that goes above and beyond what’s called for in the job description for professor, and professor Richards certainly does exemplify that,” Wardlaw said.

Making an impact

Wardlaw said the criteria for selecting the Pillars are not requirements so much as they are “suggestions to the board.”

The person has to be living at the time of selection and has to have practiced for 45 years in the community.

“They have to have shown a significant service to the legal profession, including membership in the various bar associations and bar association activities, and to the community and civic charitable organizations, as well as just a general display of leadership throughout their careers,” Wardlaw said.

There is no requirement or suggestion that the Pillars be graduates of the University of Memphis law school.

The Friend of the Law School award, which Stokes will receive this year, is not chosen based on a strict set of criteria.

“The Friend of the Law School … is based on someone’s long-standing tradition of helping the law school, much more broadly than just in a monetary sense, but having shown a willingness and ability to further the law school as an institution,” Wardlaw said.

The Excellence in Teaching Award is voted on by the board as a whole.

“It recognizes a professor who exemplifies everything that’s right in teaching law to those who will become lawyers in our community,” Wardlaw said. “Professor Richards certainly does exemplify that.”

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