With a sense of “total sadness,” the Texas Trial Lawyers Association must enter an era of new leadership after Tommy Townsend (pictured), the group’s 23-year executive director, died on Nov. 18, said the TTLA President Brad Parker.
“I think his legacy is going to be: a remarkable leader,” said Parker. “I think everybody would agree that Tommy thought about the issues of the TTLA and the civil-justice system constantly, and how we could work to preserve the civil-justice system and keep out infringement on the right to trial by jury. He just understood, inherently, the process and how important it was.”
The TTLA expected Townsend to retire in the next several years, and leadership was forming a transition plan, said Parker. Those discussions are on hold to mourn Townsend, but sometime after Thanksgiving, leadership will determine how to find a new executive director, said Parker, president and sole shareholder of the Parker Law Firm in Fort Worth.
Townsend died less than one week after doctors diagnosed him with a serious illness. He became the TTLA’s executive director in 1990. Parker said he lead the association through both “wonderful” and “tremendously difficult” times.
For example, he used a nonpartisan manner to lead the TTLA through the 2003 legislative session, when the Republican-led Texas House passed a comprehensive civil-justice bill that included medical-malpractice reforms.
“One of the things that was really special to me was being able to walk through the Capitol with Tommy Townsend. The respect he garnered and had from everyone, it seemed, in the Capitol was amazing,” he said.
Parker said Townsend oversaw construction of the TTLA’s current headquarters. He helped formulate and develop TrialSmith, an online tool for Texas and nationwide trial lawyers to exchange information. Parker said that Townsend recognized and developed talent, attracting “professional and capable” staff to the TTLA.
“He left TTLA strong, and there are so many people committed to making sure it continues that way. TTLA is bigger than any one man. Tommy understood and recognized that more than anyone,” Parker said.
The public is invited to attend Townsend’s funeral at 11 a.m. on Nov. 22 at the First United Methodist Church in Austin. Following a private burial, there’s also a public memorial celebration at the Headliners Club in Austin.
-- Angela Morris