Lamar University and the Beaumont Foundation of America have announced the 15th in a series of Southeast Texas Legends Scholarships, this one honoring Walter Umphrey, founding partner of Provost Umphrey Law Firm. The $100,000 endowed scholarship will assist underserved Lamar University students, said Lamar President James Simmons.
Born in Port Arthur, Umphrey received a football scholarship to Southern Methodist University then completed his Bachelor’s in Business Administration at Baylor in 1959.
Umphrey worked as an insurance adjustor before entering Baylor Law School and earning his Juris Doctorate degree in 1965.
Umphrey’s dedication to the law in conjunction with the rights of individuals was inspired while being reared in the home of a justice of the peace. He began his career as a prosecuting attorney and ultimately chief felony prosecutor for the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office.
He founded Provost Umphrey Law Firm with partner David Provost in 1969. For more than 40 years, Provost Umphrey’s mission has remained to seek justice for those suffering from a personal injury, wrongful death or other legal wrong across Texas and nationwide through their lawyers in Beaumont and Houston, Little Rock, Ark., and Nashville, Tenn.
Umphrey is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates and admitted to practice before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, U.S. District Courts for the Eastern and Southern District of Texas, and the United States Supreme Court. His legal affiliations include the Port Arthur Bar Association, Jefferson County Bar Association, Texas Trial Lawyers Association, the American Association for Justice, American Bar Association and State Bar of Texas. He is a Fellow of the International Society of Barristers.
The senior managing partner at Provost and Umphrey Law Firm in Beaumont, Umphrey is well known as co-counsel, along with Wayne A. Reaud, chairman of the board of the Beaumont Foundation, in the historic $17.3-billion settlement for Texas residents against the tobacco industry in 1998.
“Walter and Wayne Reaud were friends long before they were selected as co-counsel to represent the state of Texas against the tobacco companies, a trial still considered one of the most important in the history of the world,” said Frank Newton, president and CEO of the foundation. “They remain friends and are two of the leading philanthropists in Southeast Texas.”
Umphrey is board certified in the areas of Personal Injury Trial Law and Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is a Fellow of the International Society of Barristers.
He was selected for inclusion in Texas Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters Business, 2003-2012, an honor only 5 percent of the lawyers in the state are selected for annually.
In June 2000, Umphrey was recognized as one of the top Texas lawyers of the 20th century in the Texas Lawyer publication “Legal Legends: A Century of Texas Law and Lawyering.” Texas Lawyer also named Umphrey as one of the 25 greatest Texas lawyers of the past quarter-century in its special 2010 anniversary issue.
Additionally, Umphrey has been recognized for his contributions to the legal community by countless organizations, including receiving the prestigious Blackstone Award from the Jefferson County Bar Association.
Beyond the practice of law, Walter has provided unwavering support to important civic and community causes. He serves as director of the National Wildlife Association, director of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, director of both Texas Regional Bancshares Inc., and CommunityBank of Texas.
Umphrey helped build the new Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center on the banks of the Brazos River at Baylor University that is hailed as a state-of-the-art educational facility. Recently the couple made a generous gift that will support construction of the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Bridge at Baylor Stadium, connecting the new stadium with the law school across the Brazos River.
The newest cancer institute in Southeast Texas was named the Walter Umphrey Cancer Center. An annual sponsor of “Gift of Life” breast and prostate cancer initiatives, Walter Umphrey provides unparalleled support to important civic and community causes, ranging from cancer screening to education to conservation.
Umphrey has been very generous to Lamar University through the years, supporting LU athletic programs and Le Grand Bal for many years. In 2005, a $5 million gift was recognized in the naming of the Sheila Umphrey Recreational Sports Center when it opened in 2007, and a combined gift of $3 million from the law firm and an additional $1 million from Sheila and Walter Umphrey was recognized in the naming of Provost Umphrey Stadium in 2008 prior to the resumption of the football program at Lamar.
Previous Southeast Texas Legends Endowed Scholarships honor Major T. Bell, Jack Brooks, Don Burgess, Dr. Joe Dickerson, Everett Lord, Gilbert I. “Buddy” Low, George McLaughlin, Hubert Oxford III, Carl Parker Jr., James M. Simmons, Ward Stephenson, Joe H. Tonahill, John G. Tucker, and Bob Wortham.
“We are grateful to the Beaumont Foundation of America for its commitment to Lamar University and the underserved individuals who will benefit from this generous endowment for years to come,” Simmons said.
The Beaumont Foundation of America, created in 2001, is a nonprofit grant-making institution dedicated to enriching the lives and enhancing the futures of less fortunate children and youth, families and the elderly. The foundation was created through a $2.1 billion lawsuit settlement with the Toshiba Corp. that alleged the company sold computers that were built with defective parts. The charity was created to help expand, enhance and strengthen opportunities for students who are most in need of assistance. Its board of directors is made up of attorney and philanthropist Wayne A. Reaud, attorney and philanthropist Gilbert I. “Buddy” Low and businessman and philanthropist Jon M. Huntsman. Since its creation, the foundation has granted more than $68 million worth of computer equipment to schools, charities, churches and individuals throughout the nation.
“The foundation is focused on the underserved and that mission starts with a fundamental reality of our global economy — education is essential for a successful life,” said Newton.