|Houston, Jul 09, 2007 — Judge John Hill, Jr., a shareholder at Texas law firm Winstead PC and a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, passed away today at 9:45 a.m. at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston where he had been hospitalized since June 7, 2007. He was 83. Judge Hill was a shareholder, working in Winstead's Houston Office in the Appellate Practice Group, and he also headed the firm's successful Mock Trial Program for new associates.
“This is a sad day for us," said Winstead CEO and Chairman Denis Braham. "His dedication to the legal community, his exemplary public service and his commitment to mentoring young lawyers was unsurpassed. He will be dearly missed by all of us at Winstead and we wish the best for his family during this difficult time."
Except for the 11 years he spent in state government, Judge Hill was a practicing trial lawyer with a long list of distinguished titles in Texas government and law and he was the first person in Texas history to serve the people of Texas as Secretary of State, Attorney General and Chief Justice.
“Judge Hill was committed to the legal profession and known in many circles as a distinguished attorney who dedicated his life to the legal community," said Ross Margraves, managing shareholder of Winstead's Houston Office. "His many professional and civic activities in our community displayed his endless dedication and energy," adds Margraves.
Judge Hill attended the University of Texas for undergraduate studies and graduated from the University of Texas School of Law with honors in 1947 after taking a break to serve as a Navy lieutenant in the Pacific during World War II. He was admitted to the practice of law in Texas that same year and he and his wife Bitsy moved to Houston where he began his career as a trial lawyer, earning respect and admiration from colleagues and friends among the Plaintiffs' Bar of Texas. After 19 years as a trial lawyer, Judge Hill was appointed Texas Secretary of State by Gov. John Connally.
In 1972, Judge Hill was elected as Attorney General, serving until 1979. In this role, he took on the trial of the Howard Hughes Estate Tax Case and argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, upholding of the Texas Death Penalty Statute. Judge Hill argued seven cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. After serving as Attorney General, Judge Hill joined forces with Vester Hughes to form Hughes & Hill, a Dallas-based law firm now known as Hughes & Luce.
In 1984, Judge Hill was elected Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court. He resigned from this position in 1988 and moved back to Houston where he practiced in the litigation and appellate sections of Houston law firm Liddell, Sapp, Zively, Hill and Laboon, now known as Locke Lidell & Sapp. In 2005, Judge Hill came to Winstead PC where he worked in the Appellate Practice Group and continued mentoring young lawyers through his Mock Trial Program.
Among the many honors and awards Judge Hill received were the Outstanding Fifty Year Lawyer Award from the Texas Bar Foundation in 1999 and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Texas School of Law in 1997. Judge Hill has also been honored with the Leon Green Award for Outstanding Service to the Legal Profession; the American Judicature Society Herbert Harley Award; the Freedom of the Press Award; the Mr. South Texas Award; the Marc Gold Award for Outstanding Service to the Mentally Retarded; the Karen H. Susman Jurisprudence Award; and the Lola Wright Foundation Award for Legal Ethics. In 1991, Judge Hill was named a Distinguished Alumnus of The University of Texas, and in 2004, the school established The John L. Hill Trial Advocacy Center at the University of Texas Law School in his honor.
According to former Texas Supreme Court Justice Craig T. Enoch, chair of Winstead's Appellate Practice Group, "I've experienced first hand Judge Hill's leadership skills and extensive judicial knowledge. Texas has benefited from his energy, knowledge and passion about law and he leaves behind a legacy that we can all admire. John is a person whom I can truthfully say, I'm proud to have known the man."
Judge Hill is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Ann (Bitsy) Hill; three children, Melinda Elizabeth Hill Perrin, John Graham Hill and Judge Martha Hill Jamison; 10 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.