50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education CELEBRATED AS TRAILBLAZING TRIAL ATTORNEY WILLIAM H. MURPHY JR. RECEIVES UB'S INAUGURAL CHARLES HAMILTON HOUSTON AWARD
February 19, 2004
Contact: University Relations
BALTIMORE, MD-February 17 brought the who's who of the Baltimore legal community to the John and Frances Angelos Law Center at the University of Baltimore `School of Law for a historic forum on the Brown v. Board of Education litigation that concluded with another landmark event: the presentation of the inaugural Charles Hamilton Houston Award for Lifetime Achievement in Litigation to former Judge William H. Murphy Jr.
William H. "Billy" Murphy Jr., recognized as one of Maryland's foremost trial attorneys, received the award from UB's Stephen L. Snyder Center for Litigation Skills in recognition of his career of excellence, innovation and achievement in courtroom advocacy. Attending the event were such legal notables as Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, Maryland Court of Special Appeals Judge Arrie W. Davis, Piper Rudnick's M. Peter Moser, Venable's C. Carey Deeley Jr. and University of Maryland School of Law Dean Karen Rothenberg.
"Charles Houston was the Moses of a historic legal saga which began in Missouri with a case no attorney but Houston would touch, and concluded years later in this nation's highest court in a case tried by Thurgood Marshall--Houston's student and protégé--simply known as Brown v. Board of Education," said Murphy. "Houston was the epitome of what a trial lawyer must be. He understood there are no shortcuts to excellence when peoples' lives hang in the balance. He was uncompromising, driven by a work ethic that knew no bounds plus a commitment to social activism that literally led to self-sacrifice, which is without equal in the annals of legal history and lore. He stepped to the front when destiny called and refused to take a back seat to anyone who challenged another individual's right to justice. To receive an award named for this giant of legal achievement is beyond an honor. … I consider it a blessing.
"Houston used to tell his students, 'A lawyer's either a social engineer or he's a parasite on society,'" he continued. "He left us a legacy and a clear choice. I am honored that my colleagues, former opponents and friends deem me worthy of receiving this award. I certainly look forward to standing here in the future and to passing the torch to the next recipient."
"Billy Murphy is one of this country's most accomplished attorneys," said University of Baltimore law Professor José Anderson, who presented the award to Murphy. "His command of the law is preeminent, his commitment to his community and profession is without equal and his devotion to justice is literally an inspiration to practicing attorneys, especially to those who aspire to break new ground on the courthouse steps in years to come."
Immediately prior to receiving his award, Murphy spoke on his experiences growing up as an African-American in the pre-Brown era as part of the evening's program on "The Brown v. Board Litigation." Joining Murphy in the forum were fellow participants Charles Houston Jr., son of Charles Hamilton Houston (the lawyer and educator who was instrumental in laying the legal groundwork that led to U.S. Supreme Court rulings outlawing racial segregation in public schools) and an adjunct history professor at Morgan State University, and Anderson, who is also the director of the Stephen L. Snyder Center for Litigation Skills at the University of Baltimore and co-author of the forthcoming book, The Ghosts of "Jim Crow."
Murphy graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a B.S. in electrical engineering in 1965. He earned his J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law--where he was a member of the Law Review--in 1969. He has practiced law for 34 years, including three years as a judge on the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, the highest level Maryland trial court. Murphy has tried numerous high-profile criminal and civil cases including some of the most celebrated criminal and civil cases in Maryland history. He is the founder and senior partner of William H. Murphy Jr. and Associates, P.A., in Baltimore.
In 2002, Murphy won a $276 million verdict against First Union National Bank, the largest punitive damages award in Maryland judicial history. In 1998, he successfully defended fight promoter Don King and Don King Productions in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in United States v. Don King and Don King Productions, Inc.; and he currently represents King and his corporation in other matters, including Mike Tyson v. Don King and Don King Productions and Lennox Lewis v. Don King and Don King Productions.
A member of the team of lawyers that sued Ernst & Young in Devan v. Ernst & Young in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City in 1998, Murphy obtained from them a settlement of $185 million dollars last year, the largest single-defendant settlement in Maryland history. He has obtained multi-million-dollar results in complex civil cases and has been recognized in numerous publications as one of the best trial lawyers in the history of Maryland.
Murphy has handled cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, the state and federal courts of the District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia, and in the United Kingdom. When he resigned from the Circuit Court in 1983 to run for mayor of Baltimore City, The (Baltimore) Sun wrote that Murphy had the best win-loss record of any criminal lawyer in Baltimore and observed that his peers considered him to be "extraordinarily gifted" and "one of the best defense attorneys of his time."
The University of Baltimore is an upper-division, graduate and professional university. UB--the state's career-minded university--is a member of the University System of Maryland and comprises the School of Law, the Yale Gordon College of Liberal Arts and the Robert G. Merrick School of Business.