Yale University

In Memoriam

John Jeffers, Jr.

John Jeffers, Jr.
1964 graduation

An obituary and a tribute ...


Baker & Botts partner John Jeffers Jr. dies

Friday, May 26, 1989
Houston Chronicle

John Leroy Jeffers Jr., 46, senior partner with the law firm of Baker & Botts and a member of the team of attorneys that won an $11 billion judgment against Texaco Inc., died Thursday in Methodist Hospital after a brief illness.

A native of Houston, Jeffers majored in English and history at Yale University before returning to Texas to study law at the University of Texas in Austin. His father, Leroy Jeffers, who died in 1979, was a senior partner at Vinson & Elkins and was president of the State Bar of Texas.

Jeffers specialized in business litigation, conducting numerous trials involving mergers and acquisitions. "John was one of the greatest trial lawyers ever to practice in the hundred-year history of Baker & Botts," said his law partner G. Irvin Terrell. "We will all miss him, both as a lawyer and because we love him."

During the Pennzoil -Texaco trial, Jeffers' 16-year-old daughter, Adrienne Elise, died in a car wreck. "He handled adversity as well as anyone I have ever known," said Joe Jamail, the flamboyant plaintiff's attorney who led the Pennzoil team.

"He had intuitive instincts that enabled him to be so sensitive to human feelings," Jamail said.

"John was a great lawyer, and it's a tragic loss to the legal profession," said opposing counsel Gibson Gayle Jr., managing partner at Fulbright & Jaworski.

The Pennzoil lawsuit was eventually settled for $3 billion after the judgment was reduced on appeal.

Jeffers served on the board of governors of the Federal Fifth Circuit, a judicial advisory council, and was a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and a member of the American Law Institute.

He is survived by his wife, Susan Pinson Jeffers; son, John Franklin Jeffers; mother, Nell Jeffers; and sister, Mary Nell Lovett, all of Houston.

Services are scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday in Christ Church Cathedral, 1117 Texas Ave. George H. Lewis & Sons in charge of arrangements.

From the program of the dedication ceremony for the John Jeffers Courtroom at the University of Texas School of Law, Austin, Texas, May 1, 1990


At the time of his death at age 46 on May 25, 1989, John Jeffers had achieved preeminence as a trial lawyer and was a leader of the law firm of Baker & Botts in Houston, Texas. After graduation from Yale and the University of Texas School of Law, Mr. Jeffers was law clerk to Judge Homer Thornberry, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Over the years he rose to be a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a Member of the Board of Governors for the Fifth Circuit, a Member of the American Law Institute and a Member of the Executive Committee of Baker & Botts.

Mr. Jeffers was most noted for his role as one of the lead trial counsel for Pennzoil Company in its $11.53 billion judgment against Texaco Inc. and the subsequent $3 billion settlement. He also tried numerous other major lawsuits, including Heatransfer Corporation's antitrust victory against Volkswagen which at the time was the largest private antitrust damage award, and Tenneco, Inc.'s successful acquisition of Monroe Auto Equipment Company, the world s largest manufacturer of shock absorbers, over the protest of the Federal Trade Commission.

Perhaps the best summary of how Mr. Jeffers viewed his professional life is found in a portion of his remarks to his Yale classmates at their 25th reunion:

"They say that the law is a jealous mistress. For me she has been a demanding but rewarding one. Success has well exceeded my modest abilities, and I was fortunate to participate as co-counsel in obtaining the largest judgment and then the largest settlement in history. As I look back over twenty years, I see a blur of courtrooms, judges chambers, law offices, hotels, and the faces of friends all across the United States. It has been a life of action and a good one."

It is fitting that the University of Texas School of Law courtroom for the training of future generations of trial lawyers will bear the name John L. Jeffers.