Wayne A. Reaud named Southeast Texas Legend

Wayne A. Reaud named Southeast Texas Legend

What makes someone legendary? While many have achieved academic accomplishments, career milestones and high socioeconomic status, only a few have set themselves apart with a magnitude of selflessness that they will truly be remembered for generations to come.

Wayne A. Reaud became one of the chosen few to be recognized as a Legend by Lamar University Thursday, Nov. 9, when he was named the 16th Southeast Texas Legend Scholarship honoree at the very building the university dedicated in the Beaumont Super Lawyer and philanthropist’s honor a year ago.

“When we talk about a legend, we’re talking about someone whose legendary acts will continue in the future,” said Gilbert I. “Buddy” Low, a Super Lawyer in his own right who was named a Southeast Texas Legend in 2009 and serves on the Board of Directors for the Beaumont Foundation, a nonprofit Reaud founded in 2001 that is the impetus for the Southeast Texas Legend Scholarship.

Low said Reaud is a legend not because of academic accomplishments or career milestones, although he has many, but because of what he has given back to the community, adding that, “Wayne has given all in so many ways” — as a lawyer, a philanthropist, a board member, a citizen, a publicist and as a humanitarian.

As a lawyer and founder of the law firm Reaud, Morgan & Quinn, Reaud has handled first impression mass tort litigation involving asbestos premises liability claims, including the largest asbestos product liability class action lawsuit in the history of Texas courts. He also represented the state of Texas in its landmark litigation against the tobacco industry. Reaud built a case against Toshiba for selling millions of laptop computers with defective disk drives that led to the company settling out of court with Reaud’s law firm for $2.1 billion in October 1999. The settlement stipulated that unclaimed funds be used to create a foundation whose mission was to close the digital divide.

That mission has expanded, and the Beaumont Foundation of America started Southeast Texas Legends Scholarships at Lamar University in 2007 to honor leaders in Southeast Texas who have made a difference by providing endowed scholarships for bright youth who need financial help to achieve their potential. There are now 16 named scholarships, each honoring a regional leader.

“Growing out of an historic $2.1 billion settlement of a nationwide class action lawsuit, the mission of the foundation became … supporting education primarily for students who otherwise might not afford the opportunity for an educational experience,” said Kenneth Evans, president of Lamar University. “Today, what the foundation does with these scholarships is … provide an opportunity for students to access and complete a degree without having to do what they often have to do at Lamar University — working full and part time, sometimes more than one job.”

Each Legends Scholarship was established with a $100,000 endowment, Evans said, adding that the program now totals $1.6 million in grants from the Beaumont Foundation.

Reaud received his law degree from Texas Tech University in 1974. He is a former director of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association and a past president of the Southeast Texas Trial Lawyers Association. He is a Life Fellow of the Texas Bar Association, a Fellow of the International Society of Barristers and is listed in Best Lawyers in America. He was awarded the Honorary Order of the Coif by the University of Texas School of Law in 2011.

A Distinguished Alumnus of LU, Reaud has numerous ties to the university, including the Wayne A. Reaud Administration Building and the prestigious Reaud Honors College. Reaud has been a generous benefactor to the university. His ties include a decade of service as a Lamar Regent (1985-95), as well as establishment of the Albert E. and Gena Reaud Scholarship. He is a generous supporter of KVLU Public Radio, the Judge Joe J. Fisher Distinguished Lecture Series, and Cardinal Athletics.

Attending the event Nov. 9 to speak of his close friendship with Reaud and about what it means to be a legend was a true icon in the world of business, Jon Huntsman Sr., founder and chairman of the Huntsman Corporation.

“There are all kinds of legends. Jessie James was a legend. A few other colorful folks were legends,” Huntsman said. “And then there are legends that we want to replicate our lives around and try to assimilate their traits and qualities in our own lives. Wayne Reaud is one of those.”

Huntsman spoke of his more than 30-year relationship with Reaud and how they went from being archrivals to best friends.

“I had just bought Texaco Chemical, and he had a quarrel with me immediately,” Huntsman said.

Upon taking the podium, Reaud agreed that the two at first seemed to be set on a collision course.

“When we first met, we were like the sheriff and the bootlegger,” Reaud said. “We were sort of natural enemies. He was a titan in the American industry, a king. I was this little old lawyer that represented people with a sore back. … We both looked at each other in sort of a jaundiced eye.”

Huntsman said he quickly gained a respect for Reaud and realized they actually had a lot in common, both being selfless leaders who wanted to help their fellow man.

“Before long, we developed this very interesting friendship that seldom men in life develop,” Huntsman said. “Wayne’s my dearest friend in life. I hesitate to ever deny that fact. ... The bottom line is we’ve been through a lot of wars together.”

Wars like Huntsman Corporation’s battle with Apollo Management and two of its founders, Leon Black and Joshua Harris, who tried to block a $10.6 billion merger with Apollo company Hexion Specialty Chemicals in 2008.

“They backed out of the contract, and so we obviously had to go after them legally,” Huntsman said. “I thought, ‘Who can I get by my side to offset this 40-member law firm?’”

Huntsman chose Reaud.

“You all know you’ve got to have your German shepherd on your side if you’re in war,” Huntsman said. “You don’t want to take along a poodle.”

Dec. 14, 2008, Huntsman and Reaud settled a bruising fight with Apollo Management, the private equity giant, for a little over $1 billion, a quick end to one of the largest-ever battles over a leveraged buyout.

“After about a week, we won every single issue that was before the judge and it was one of the great standards in business law,” Huntsman said. “It’s still referred to today in many cases. They completely collapsed as far as their case was concerned. … Then we … decided to take on the banks that had joined with them in this conspiracy to not proceed with the contract.”

Huntsman sued Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank, who were to finance Hexion’s deal with Huntsman, alleging that they were conspiring with Apollo Management to interfere with the agreement.

“These were two of the biggest banks in the country,” Huntsman said. “And so they came in with their army of people they always bring in — 30 to 50 lawyers all dressed in dark blue — the women and the men, always out of Harvard and Stanford … not many of them out of Texas. That was their big problem.

“They came down to Texas and the first thing Judge (Fred) Edwards said was we’re going to stand and give the pledge of allegiance to the flag. They stumbled through that and half of them sat down. They forgot there was a pledge of allegiance to Texas, so as they were sitting down, mumbling some New York stuff, the judge made the point that you’ve got to make a pledge to the state before you make any kind of statement or anything else. So right away we had them on the run.”

A week after trial began in a Texas state courtroom, The Huntsman Corporation and the two banks it was suing over a failed takeover agreed to settle their dispute.

“Wayne … had them totally tongue-tied and before long we met them at the Conroe airport. He had a Gulfstream and I put mine next to it, so it looked like we had a little power behind us. We took them out there and they offered us $100 million to settle. … We ended up getting $1.7 billion — the largest out-of-court settlement in the history of business,” he said.

However, it’s not only the trails in the courtroom that Reaud blazed that make him a legend, Huntsman stressed.

“It’s when people look and say this is what’s right. It’s not what’s best for me or where I’m going to make the most money or how I’m going to get the most glamour or publicity – it’s what’s right. And so as I’ve watched Wayne over the years. The reason he’s being honored as a legend is because he’s adhered his life to these principles of fair play, of integrity, of honesty … Whatever is right I’ll do my very best and however I come out, that’s OK.”

Huntsman also pointed to Reaud the philanthropist. In addition to the Beaumont Foundation, Reaud, through his Reaud Family Foundation, also touches the lives of thousands of children each year. The Reaud Family Foundation achieved a remarkable milestone in 2016 by having given away over 30,000 bicycles and children’s Bibles since the program’s inception in 1998. The Beaumont Foundation of America regularly donates to food banks throughout the state of Texas to help strengthen their mission of feeding the hungry.

“I think of the Bicycles & Bibles program and the food banks and the things that people don’t usually know about that Wayne has helped develop and create,” Huntsman said. “Many, many young people have had their lives changed dramatically, particularly some of the people that may be less fortunate. … People may not think that’s legendary in a sense, but there are not many folks who do that. There aren’t many individuals who are thinking of others and who aren’t doing things just to receive the publicity, but are doing them to uplift the lives of others. I have a great respect for Wayne in doing this.”

Although he received great praise from Huntsman, Reaud explained that it was Huntsman, who has given over $1 billion to charity, who was an inspiration to him.

“Jon Huntsman is the best man I know,” Reaud said. “Many of y’all have heard me say that before and, I will say that until my dying breath, if given the opportunity. He is the most generous of men. In my religious upbringing, which is the same as Pastor (John) Adolph’s, I was taught that (through) the good deeds that we do in this world, we can put jewels in our crown in heaven. … Those good deeds don’t get us there, but the good things we do can enhance our status in heaven. If that is true, Jon Huntsman won’t be able to wear his crown. It will be so encrusted with jewels he will need 100 retainers to carry it for him. … Jon Huntsman is a great man. I don’t think Jon understands how he’s influenced my life. What an inspiration he’s been to me. I have been privileged to call him my friend.”

Reaud also praised Low as one of the best lawyers to ever practice.

“Buddy Low is just quite simply the best lawyer I’ve ever seen,” he said, comparing him to Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

“I don’t know if many of you all are old enough to remember Sandy Koufax,” Reaud said, “but there was a period of about three years where he was literally unbeatable. … He was like magic. Buddy Low was the Sandy Koufax of law. There was a long period of his life … that you just couldn’t beat him. Low was magic. I don’t know how he did it. … If you were a lawyer and you had to make a living facing Buddy Low every Monday morning, you just gave up your law license and learned how to sell shoes. … He was a mentor and a friend and I thank (him) so for everything (he’s) done for me.”

Ultimately, however, Reaud gave God the glory for his success in life.

“I have had a privileged life,” he said. “I’ve been blessed and I thank God every day for his goodness and grace and his generosity to me in life.”

Reaud described himself as a country lawyer who had some unusual opportunities.

“Opportunities that fed my ego at times and filled me with a cynical pride. The older I get the more I realize at the end of our lives, what matters is not what we accomplish for ourselves but what we accomplish for others,” he said. “As a lawyer, I would like to be remembered as someone who fought for people who could not fight for themselves. As a man I’d like to be remembered as someone who heard his maker’s voice say, ‘Whatsoever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me, and if you love me, feed my sheep.’”

Legends are remembered even long after they have left this Earth, Low said, by establishing the groundwork for others to continue their mission to help make the world around them a better place.

“Wayne’s legacy gives us hope for the expectation of something tomorrow. … Wayne has created people who are carrying his torch into the future,” Low said. “And that torch will continue into the future. It won’t stop today. It won’t stop tomorrow. In the future, people will want to be (like) Wayne Reaud."