Joe H. Reynolds, a long time member of the firm, passed away December 19, 2009. Joe led an extraordinary life. He was a dedicated husband, father, grandfather and friend to all who knew him. He was an outstanding trial lawyer, a biblical scholar and a veteran of the two bloodiest battles in United States Marine Corps history. He was a friend to all who knew him. Joe was kind, generous, and loving to all and he was an attorney whose integrity was unsurpassed.
Joe was born in 1921, in Commerce, Texas. He grew up in Tyler, Texas and eventually graduated from Waco High School. He attended Baylor University and Baylor Law School. Joe was married to Sue Stamper Reynolds for 61 years.
Following the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Joe enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. In July, 1944, Lt. Reynolds, served with the 1st Marine Division in the Soloman Islands and then landed on Guam, a strategic island in the Mariana Islands. Thereafter, in February, 1945, he landed with the 3rd Marine Division on Iwo Jima. While he and other members of the Marine Corp captured the second air strip on Iwo, Joe personally watched as a platoon of Marines climbed and then raised the American flag atop Mount Suribachi. During the fierce fighting the followed, Joe was seriously wounded and evacuated to an aircraft carrier off shore only later to return as a forward artillery observer spotting enemy positions from a small airplane flying over the Iwo battlefield. For his service, Joe received the Purple Heart, several battle citations and numerous other medals for valor.
After WW II, Joe Reynolds returned to Texas and graduated from Baylor Law School. He was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 1947. Joe first served in the trial division of the Texas Attorney General’s office, representing among others the State Highway Department in multiple antitrust cases. As the State’s counsel for the University of Texas, Joe also opposed Thurgood Marshall in the landmark case of Sweatt v. Painter. In 1950, Joe joined the firm of Bracewell, Tunks & Patterson in Houston, Texas (later renamed Bracewell, Tunks, Reynolds & Patterson). Today it is Bracewell & Giuliani, LP.
In mid-1950, war broke on the Korean peninsula and soon thereafter, Joe was unexpectedly invited back into military service. Within weeks, Joe found himself at Camp Pendleton and shortly thereafter on board a USN ship headed to the Korea. On September 15, 1950, Capt. Reynolds, then with the 1st Marine Division under the command of Col. Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller, landed at “Blue Beach” at Inchon, Korea. Not long thereafter, Joe had the occasion to meet Gen. Douglas McArthur, commander of all UN forces in Korea, on the battlefield near Inchon. From there, the 1st Marines moved north to secure the electrical generating facilities at the southern end of the Chosin Reservoir. On the evening of November 27, 1950, nearly 100,000 Chinese soldiers surprisingly crossed the Yalu River and quickly surrounded approximately 15,000 U.S. Marine and U.S. Army forces. During the ensuing 17 day battle, with temperatures dropping to nearly 40 degrees below zero, the US forces successfully escaped their entrapment and those who fought in this, one of the greatest battles in Marine Corp history, would forever be known as the “Chosin Few”.
During his Korean service, Joe suffered severe frostbite and other combat injuries, was hospitalized for many months, and for his service Joe was awarded the Commendation Ribbon with Combat V. The Commandant General of the Marine Corps has called the Battles of Iwo Jima and the Chosin Reservoir two of the bloodiest battles in U.S. Marine Corps history. At his death, Joe was one of only a few survivors of both of these historic battles.
Returning to Houston after the Korean War, Joe resumed the practice of law, first with the firm of Bracewell, Tunks & Patterson. In 1967, Joe and several other members of the Bracewell firm formed Reynolds, White, Allen & Cook and successor firms. During his later years, Joe served as Of Counsel to Andrews & Kurth, L.P. and finally with the firm of Schwartz Junell Greenberg & Oathout, LLP.
In 1972, Gov. Preston Smith appointed Joe as a member of the Board of Regents of Texas A&M University. Joe served for 16 years, having actually been appointed by three different Texas governors, including Governors Smith, Gov. Dolph Briscoe and Gov. Mark W. White, Jr. In Joe’s honor and for his outstanding service, the Texas A&M medical school building is today named in his honor. In addition to his service to A&M, Joe organized the Board of Visitors of Texas Southern University School of Law and served on its board for 10 years. Joe personally represented Gov. Briscoe and Gov. Mark White for many years. And he served as special counsel to the Texas Supreme Court in multiple matters. Some of his most memorable clients include the Houston Independent School District as well as many other independent school districts throughout the State of Texas, Tenneco Oil Company, Amerada Hess Corporation, and many others.
For most of his life, Joe Reynolds was a Biblical scholar, and one of his great loves was teaching his “Nothing But the Truth” Sunday School Class at Second Baptist Church. As a lawyer and as a student of the gospel, Joe often spoke to church and lay gatherings about the “Trials of Jesus Christ”. Not surprisingly, his in-depth focus during these presentations was on the courts, the judges, the charges, the procedures, the witnesses and the evidence.
Among his many honors, Joe was admitted to the American College of Trial Lawyers in 1962. His nomination by many of Houston’s greatest trial lawyers (including Col. Joe Jaworski, Leroy Jeffers, and others) was actually made before Joe had attained the mandatory age of 40. But for Joe, the age limit was waived. Most recently, Joe was recognized by the State Bar of Texas as a “Texas Legal Legend”. Today he is only one of three to hold that distinction. Joe loved being a lawyer and he loved practicing law, particularly in Houston, Texas. He often said: “If I had a thousand lives to live, I’d live every one as a lawyer in Houston, Texas.” Joe Reynolds was, indeed, a Texas Legend and his guidance and wisdom will surely be missed.