UT to install statues of Royal, Jamail

Bronze likenesses to occupy prominent spot at football stadium

By: Ralph K.M. Haurwitz, Staff
Austin American-Statesman
Thursday, October 21, 2004

Football is practically a religion at the University of Texas. The undisputed spiritual leader is Darrell Royal, who coached the Longhorns to three national championships in 20 years.

In an era of declining state funding for higher education, donors get hero worship at UT as well. And few people have been as generous as Joseph Jamail, a Houston trial lawyer who has given $21.7 million to athletics, the law school and other programs.

Now, in an effort to ensure that their contributions are remembered, the university is about to install 8-foot-tall bronze statues of Royal and Jamail on some of its most sacred ground. If all goes as planned, the statues will be placed near flagpoles at the southeast corner of the stadium in time for the matchup between UT and Texas A&M University the day after Thanksgiving.

"We are excited about the location," said Patricia Ohlendorf, UT's vice president for institutional relations and legal affairs. "The statues will be looking out onto the football field, and they will be placed in a way that fans may take photographs standing next to them if they wish."

But not everyone on campus is thrilled. Few people outside a small circle of UT officials are aware of the statues, and some faculty members, when told of the plan, said it was disturbing that such a high honor would be bestowed without wider discussion and debate. Some of the critics said Jamail's statue amounts to overkill because his likeness already stands in the law school. He apparently would be the only person represented by two statues on campus.

UT has agonized publicly of late about other statues. President Larry Faulkner said earlier this year that he would appoint a committee, including faculty members, to come up with recommendations for rearranging statues of Confederate figures. Students have been deeply involved in planning statues of civil rights leaders César Chávez and Barbara Jordan, as they were earlier for a statue of Martin Luther King Jr.

The UT System's governing board had planned to consider the Royal and Jamail statues at a meeting in September, but the matter was pulled from the agenda when UT-Austin officials decided to place the statues inside the stadium complex rather than outside. The distinction is significant.

Under the Board of Regents' rules, approval is required before any campus can accept "a gift of an outdoor work of art." Although the statues will get wet when it rains, they are not considered outdoor artwork, said Michael Warden, a UT System spokesman.

"Inside a facility does not require regental approval," Warden said. "Inside a stadium is inside a facility. That is the interpretation of its (the rule's) application and consistent with past practice."

The Jamail statue — a second casting of the statue of him in the law school — is a gift from Vinson & Elkins LLP, a Houston-based law firm. Jamail and his wife, Lee, commissioned the same sculptor, Lawrence Ludtke of Houston, to make one of Royal. The Jamails have spent more than $150,000, and Vinson & Elkins expects its outlay to exceed $100,000. Both statues are in storage in Houston and have not yet been formally donated to the university.

"Joe wanted to pay for Darrell's because of their long friendship and deep affection," said Harry Reasoner, a partner with Vinson & Elkins. "There would have been many, many people willing to contribute in Coach Royal's honor." Jamail has also pledged $100,000 for an enhanced memorial to veterans planned for the stadium.

The statue of Royal depicts him in his younger days, walking the sidelines, Ludtke said. Royal retired from coaching in 1976 but is still on the payroll as a "special assistant" to Faulkner, providing advice on sports and serving as a goodwill ambassador.

University officials said they think Jamail will be the only person represented by two statues on campus but could not be certain because there is no comprehensive inventory of indoor statues. (Outdoor statues are listed on UT's Web site and include such notables as George Washington and lesser-known figures such as Albert Sidney Johnston, secretary of war for the Republic of Texas.)

The law school statue of Jamail — in a pavilion named for him — has him wearing a suit and leaning on a wooden post, as if speaking in court. Besides the pavilion at the law school, UT has named the football field, the legal research center housing the law library and the swimming center for Jamail.

He is one of the nation's most successful trial lawyers, having represented Pennzoil in a lawsuit against Texaco that won his client the largest judgment ever upheld on appeal, $11 billion. In his autobiography, "Lawyer: My Trials and Jubilations," Jamail comes across as something of a rogue as well. One picture in the book shows him making a rude gesture.

It's rare to see sculptures of donors on college campuses, said James Faubion, a professor of anthropology at Rice University.

"Of course, what one sees in its place all over are buildings named to honor the major donor financing the construction of the building, along with past presidents of the university," Faubion said. "We tend to reserve our representations of people for figures whom we associate with something above the fray — statesmen, not mere politicians, and philanthropists, not mere donors."

The Royal and Jamail sculptures demonstrate the force of athletics, said Richard Flores, a professor of anthropology at UT.

"This also raises questions about how people get elevated to that status," Flores said. "Evidently the Jordan and Chávez statues were a groundwork effort initiated by students, which says a lot. These others don't seem to be. I find it interesting that statues in themselves are becoming a vehicle for expressing something, while for years they were not."

Several students interviewed on campus Thursday said they didn't know anything about Royal or Jamail, but they didn't see any problem with erecting statues of them.

Said Jen Christian, a freshman who plays volleyball for the UT varsity team: "If anybody supports UT athletics, that's awesome."