Bill Little commentary: The wind beneath the wings
Gary Morris is one of the most gifted of all of the talented people ever produced by the state of Texas in the world of music.He starred on Broadway in Les Miserables, and can reach notes beyond the scope of most singers.He can sing country and jazz and classics and is a great songwriter as well.
And that is why he crossed my mind yesterday.Gary Morris, whom last I heard owned a lodge in the Rocky Mountains, recorded a song called "The Wind Beneath My Wings."
When Mack Brown sent me a text message on Tuesday that "we had lost" Lee Jamail, I thought of Gary and his song as my wife and I talked about Lee, and her husband, Joe, and all they mean to those of us at The University of Texas at Austin.
Most of you have an image of Joe.For more than half a century, he has been cussed and discussed as the greatest plaintiff lawyer in the world.His immense success in lawsuits such as the Pennzoil-Texaco case carried him to fame and riches.He is, today, without peer in the courtroom.
Those who know him well understand that there is a vast difference between the powerful image of the barrister and the caring, human heart that beats so fervently in concert with a brilliant mind. As Joe once said of Darrell Royal, "When he's your friend, he's your friend."
He is fiercely competitive, and fiercely loyal.All of those are true.
But this column is not about Joe.You can find his statue along side Royal's in the southeast corner of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, just above Joe Jamail Field.This piece, in a way, is for Joe, but it is not about Joe.
This, instead, is a love story.
Because the "wind beneath" his strength was a diminutive lady who stood taller than a skyscraper, and more powerful than any argument Joe ever delivered before any court.It is right, and it is wrong, to imagine Lee as "the woman behind the man."Together, they nurtured each other.Married for 57 years, together they did great things.
They stood side by side as they willingly gave of their fortune to education.In athletics, we have seen the tangible evidence of that.TheLee and JoeJamail Swim Center.Joe Jamail Field.
And Lee walked her own path as well.
She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Incarnate Word College in San Antonio, and did graduate work in speech pathology at The University of Texas at Austin.She spent a lifetime as one of this state's foremost supporters of education, healthcare and the arts.And she always, always, cared about children.
Lee gave her time, and together she and Joe gave of their considerable financial resources to many areas of The University, as well as to Rice University, The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Baylor College of Medicine, the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and many more.
She helped create the first volunteer program of the Houston Speech and Hearing Center, and established the Jesse Villarreal Professorship in Speech Pathology at UT.Together, she and Joe have created over 2,000 scholarships at The University.
Both she and Joe have been honored as Distinguished Alumnus of The University of Texas, and of the University of Houston.
The list of philanthropic endeavors and many contributions of her time as a volunteer to boards and charities goes on and on.
As Lee battled cancer with the same fierce determination that she had challenged life, Joe stood by her side, hoping against hope that modern medicine would win the struggle against time, and a relentless disease.The tiny lady with the huge heartand her partner waged an epic struggle for life.
And finally, as Mack's text said, Tuesday, "We lost Lee."
In her 77 years, she had touched more lives than she could have ever imagined, spanning generations and class distinctions.Barbara and George Bush and Edith and Darrell Royal will serve as honorary pallbearers, as will Sally and Mack Brown, and UT's President Bill Powers, and his wife, Kim Heilbrun.
Gary Morris' song is, in fact, part of the story. That was one role of Lee Jamail.
But what is also true comes from the wise man in Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet."
"Sing and dance together and be joyous," Gibran wrote, adding later, "Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts."
Then he said this:"And stand together, yet not too near together; for the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow."
And that is the story of Lee and Joe Jamail.
As we mourn her passing, we also celebrate her life.