Thursday, October 29, 2009

John O'Quinn killed in car accident

I'm still in shock after hearing that John O'Quinn was killed in a car crash today (see here). I got to know him fairly well from my time at the University of Houston Law Center, and it's fair to say that he was a complicated man. Clearly talented as a litigator, obviously generous in several ways, he was still tormented by ethics complaints and personal issues.

I know that he reached out to me after my mother died, and he reached out to me and to the school after the Law Center (to which he gave a significant amount of money) was inundated with more than 14 feet of water after Tropical Storm Allison.

He had a hunger to be appreciated and valued, and I think he had the problem that most very rich people do: not knowing who one's true friends really are. That must be extremely difficult, and I'm sure that it's lonely.

He does leave behind some true friends (as well as several people who will be more than morbidly curious about his estate). Although we spoke from time to time after I left Houston, we lost touch over the past year or so. I'm sorry for the way he died, and I'm sorry for the personal demons that kept his intelligence and talents from staying in the forefront. I liked him, most of all for the charity that he did behind the scenes that never had his name visible and for the real love that he had for the strategy of trying cases. (Yes, yes--his name is on several buildings, but he wrote a lot of checks that never had his name attached to the donations.)

Like many plaintiffs' lawyers, I think that one of the things that drove him was the desire to be a hero for his client. Whether that drive took him beyond the rules, I don't know. There are certainly allegations that he crossed the ethical line in a variety of ways in several cases, but as far as I know, although he was brought before the disciplinary committee more than once, I don't think he was found to have violated the rules. But I could be wrong about this issue. I don't think I'm wrong about his drive to be a hero.

Most people who are happy in their jobs don't do it for the money. They do it for the chance to use their talents to the best of their ability. If the money comes (and it did, in John's case), that's great. But I've never seen money make someone happy. I've seen money give someone peace of mind and security--not happiness. The ability to use your talents is much more likely to contribute to happiness.

Rest in peace, John. My thoughts go out to all of those who truly cared for you.

1 comment:

pamb said...

Hi Nancy, Thank you for writing such nice comments about John. I have often wondered where you were. All of us around the law firm are all still in shock about John's death. It hit me very hard. My cell phone is forever quite, and I don't have my "buddy" around anymore. I wish he would just walk in the door and everything that happened was just a bad dream. Take Care, Pam, Legal Assistant to John M. O'Quinn