OVERVIEW: The Lee and Joseph D. Jamail Foundation was founded in 1986 by attorney Joseph D. Jamail and his late wife Lee. The foundation is based in Houston and has given tens of millions to the University of Texas, as well as to arts, health and assorted nonprofits throughout the state.
FUNDING AREAS: Education, Texas community, arts, health
IP TAKE: More than $233 million has gone out of the door through the foundation since 1987, and approximately another $50 million has gone to the University of Texas through individual gifts. These days, annual grantmaking is under $1 million, but many organizations are still receiving steady funding.
PROFILE: Joseph D. Jamail was born into a Lebanese family and graduated from St. Thomas High School in Houston before going on to the University of Texas at Austin, where he received his B.A. in 1950. Jamail graduated from the University of Texas School of Law three years later. Jamail is often referred to as the "King of Torts" and has been considered one of the wealthiest practicing attorneys in the nation, with a net worth that was at least $1 billion. He passed away in December 2015.
Jamail's bread and butter was personal injury cases. In the 1980s, he won a $6.8 million settlement in a personal-injury suit filed against the Remington Arms Co. Over the years, he's won at least 55 settlements of $1 million or more in personal-injury cases. And then there's also Jamail's seminal case, when he represented Pennzoil against Texaco. Jamail won $10.5 billion for Pennzoil and allegedly pocketed around 20 percent.
With his late wife Lee, Jamail established the Lee and Joseph D. Jamail Foundation in 1986, through which he has given millions to education, medical research and the performance arts in the state of Texas. In education, the University of Texas system has received more than $50 million from Jamail over the years. Nearly $21 million has gone to UT Law School, and $17 million to University of Texas at Austin.
Comparatively smaller sums of money have gone to UT's Athletic Department, UT College of Education, UT College of Fine Arts, and UT Africa Studies, among others. Jamail's money, and name, has touched much of the University of Texas system. To name a few outfits on campus with the Jamail name, there's the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center, Joe Jamail Field at Darrell K Royal-Memorial Stadium, Joseph D. Jamail Center for Legal Research, Lee Hage Jamail Academic Room, and Joseph D. Jamail Pavilion.
Though Jamail's largest sums in this area have gone to the University of Texas, other sums have gone to other colleges and universities in Texas. One year, $50,000 went through the foundation to St. Thomas University in Houston, and at least $166,000 went to Rice University. This isn't the first time Jamail's money has found its way to Rice, either. In another year, Jamail gave $1 million to Rice University's Baker Institute of Public Policy.
Apart from higher education, Jamail money has also gone to elementary and secondary schools in Texas. In recent years, these include the Post Oak Montessori School, St. Pius X School, St. Francis Episcopal and San Marcos Baptist Academy. Lee graduated from San Marcos Academy in 1944 and the school received $1 million from Jamail in 2011 to build a special event center on campus in Lee's name.
The Jamail Foundation is also very active in the Texas community. In recent years, funds have gone to the Houston Parks Board, Houston SPCA, Contemporary Arts Museum, Texas Music Project, and Alley Theatre. Jamail is also interested in justice and law, and outfits like Texas Access to Justice Foundation, and Texas Supreme Court Historical Society, have received recent support. In health, money has gone to the AIDS Foundation in Houston, and to a juvenile diabetes oufit in Houston. In 2012, the outpatient center at Baylor College of Medicine was named the Lee and Joe Jamail Specialty Care Center.
This is a funder that has its footprint all across the state; even a $2.7 million skate park in downtown Houston was bankrolled by Jamail. What's more, before Lee passed, she had a distinguished philanthropic and civic career serving on boards such as the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the development board of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, and on the Board of Governors of Rice University. Jamail has also been supportive of his sons' foundation, the Jamail Galveston Foundation, which gives modestly to similar causes in Galveston.
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