Feb. 7, 2017 — U.S. District Judge Gray H. Miller, of the Southern District of Texas, paid homage to his colleague and friend Gibson Gayle Jr., as an exemplar of service and professionalism last week during his presentation as "Jurist-in-Residence" at the University of Houston Law Center.
Miller, a 1978 Law Center alumnus, paid tribute in a presentation titled, "A Profile in Professionalism: The Life of Gibson Gayle, Jr.," as part of the 2017 Judge Ruby Kless Sondock Lectureship in Legal Ethics Jurist-In-Residence Program.
"The legal profession lost a giant on Sept. 16 of 2016, and I lost a mentor, a friend and a role model," Miller said. "Gibson Gayle Jr. died on that day, but his legacy lives on in all of us who knew him, learned from him and modeled their lives after him."
Gayle, a 1950 graduate of Baylor Law School, was a prominent attorney and civic leader who practiced law for 66 years. He spent the entirety of his career at the firm formerly known as Fulbright & Jaworski and helped oversee its merger to Norton Rose Fulbright. Gayle worked as managing partner at the firm from 1979 to 1992.
He served as president and vice president of the State Bar of Texas, chairman of the board of trustees for the Texas Bar Foundation, secretary of the American Bar Association, council member of the International Bar Association, and was a life member of the ABA's House of Delegates, among other leadership roles.
Gayle was inducted as a Texas Legal Legend by the State Bar, won the Dean's Award from the Law Center in 1997, and also served as an adjunct professor from 1951 to 1955.
Miller met Gayle in 1978, when he began his legal career as an associate at Fulbright & Jaworski.
"He was accessible to all the lawyers, including the most junior associates. I joined Fulbright in 1978 as the 416th associate. At that time as managing partner, Gib made it a point to meet all the new lawyers. He learned our names and never forgot them. He also learned the names of our spouses and our children. He took an interest in us and he cared about us.
"Gib was a humble man who never wanted any recognition for what he did."
Miller worked at the firm until 2006, when he was appointed as a U.S. district Judge by then-President George W. Bush. Gayle commended Miller for his career change and a return to public service – Miller worked as an officer with the Houston Police Department while attending the then-Bates College of Law.
"After I was appointed, whenever I saw Gib he always complimented me on my decision to return to public service," Miller said. "Coming from a man that I admired and wanted to emulate, this made a big impression on me."
Gayle also was involved in philanthropic efforts with the Greater Houston Partnership, Houston Chamber of Commerce, M.D. Anderson Foundation, Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the Texas Medical center.
"Gib exemplified the highest standards of our profession and service to others. He still inspires me to participate in activities like this program. I do it because I want law students and new lawyers to know that our profession is one of service – service to others and service to the community."
The Jurist-In-Residence program is named in honor of Sondock, a trailblazer in the law who graduated as valedictorian and one of only five women in the UH law school class of 1962. After practicing law for many years, Sondock was appointed to the 234th District Court in 1977, making her the first female state district judge in Harris County. She was appointed to the Texas Supreme Court in 1982, making her the first woman to serve in a regular session of the court. She was proclaimed a "Texas Legal Legend" by the litigation section of the State Bar of Texas in 2016.
The next edition of the lecture series is April 3 with Chief Judge Roger Gregory of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals serving as the speaker.