Walsh Gallegos and the entire school law community lost a great man on August 30, 2020, with the passing of Joe Beck Hairston. Joe Hairston, along with Tom Doyal and Jim Walsh, founded our firm 37 years ago on September 1, 1983. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, September 26, 2020 at 10 am at Condra Funeral Home, 503 Talbot Street, Taylor, Texas. The following is an excerpt from a tribute by Jim Walsh.
Joe Beck, as he was known, was an outstanding student and a proud Fightin’ Duck at Taylor High School. He graduated from high school in 1956 and enrolled as an undergraduate at Harvard University. Let that thought sink in for a moment. Taylor High School. Harvard University. Here are Joe’s academic credentials: B.A. from Harvard, 1960; M.A. in English from UT Austin in 1966; Ph.D. in American Studies at University of Minnesota in 1971; J.D. from UT Austin in 1975; Master’s in Southern Studies from Ole Miss in 1995. Between his Bachelor’s at Harvard and his Master’s at UT, Joe served four years in the U.S. Navy from 1961 to 1964.
While at UT Law, Joe met and formed a lifetime friendship with another law student, Tom Doyal. All three of the original lawyers at the firm were at UT Law at the same time, and we all graduated in 1975. But I did not know Tom or Joe and they did not know me.
After law school, Joe went to work at TASB when it was a very small organization. There was no TASB Risk Management, and the policy service was just getting off the ground. In fact, Joe was the principal author of the original version of the policy service. If he had done nothing else in the world of Texas school law, that alone would have been a significant legacy. Through odd coincidences best told by Tom, they both ended up at TASB. Tom did not stay too long, leaving for a solo practice, which gradually grew to four lawyers, including Joe.
Doyal and Hairston left that firm on September 1, 1983 to form Doyal, Hairston and Walsh. Three lawyers, one secretary. Tom and I did not know each other well. Joe was the connection that bound us together. We firmed up the agreement to form the law firm in a meeting at Joe’s farmhouse in Rice’s Crossing. It was agreed that Joe would be the managing shareholder.
Casual acquaintances of Joe saw the intelligence and wit. Those who knew him better saw that, and much more. Joe lived his life based on solid values of honesty, decency, fairness, and integrity. His leadership of our law firm reflected those values and reflect who we are today.
Joe left the firm to retire from the practice of law in January 1991. His intent was to fly to a remote island in the South Pacific, arriving in the middle of the night with no place to stay and no plans. At least that’s what he told me. Sometimes with Joe it was hard to tell where the truth ended, and the story began. He turned in his bar card and the firm’s name was changed. During this time, Joe traveled and pursued a master’s degree in Southern Studies from Ole Miss. After obtaining a master’s degree, Joe returned to the practice of law in 1995. We welcomed Joe back as a shareholder, but he did not want the firm name to change again to include his name. We are grateful for those additional years he gave us between his first and second retirement. Joe retired for the second time in 2011.
We are all indebted to this great man. I’m very proud to have been Joe’s friend and law partner.