Longtime Rice supporter Joseph Jamail dies at age 90

Longtime Rice University supporter Joseph Jamail died Dec. 23 at age 90. The legendary Houston attorney’s name can be found across campus.

Joseph Jamail at his desk

Joseph Jamail

Lee and Joe Jamail Plaza, which is located between Baker and McNair halls and includes a fountain shaped like a portion of the globe, was funded by a gift from Jamail and his wife, Lee Hage Jamail, who was a trustee at the time. She died in 2007 as a trustee emerita.

In 1996 the Jamails gave Rice $5 million to establish the Lee Hage Jamail Chair in Latin American Studies, the Joseph D. Jamail Chair in Latin American Studies and other projects, including the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (now the Smalley-Curl Institute) and computational engineering.

The Lee and Joseph D. Jamail West Wing of Baker Hall was made possible by a $1 million gift to Rice’s James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy during a gala celebrating the 80th birthday of the institute’s honorary chair, former Secretary of State James A. Baker III. At that event, Baker said, ”Joe Jamail’s generosity and support of education in Texas are as legendary as his vast legal skills. I am grateful to Joe for continuing his sponsorship of the institute, and more importantly, for his valued friendship.”

Jamail, a native Houstonian, received his B.A. and law degrees from the University of Texas. The American Bar Association referred to him as “one of the most successful lawyers in history,” and Texas Monthly named him “Lawyer of the Century.” In Pennzoil v. Texaco, he represented a client who received the largest jury verdict in the history of law — more than $11 billion.

About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.