James M. Perdue, Sr. ’63, has tried more than 200 jury trials in his 45-year legal career. He belongs to numerous professional organizations; has authored a bookshelf of articles and award-winning books and has been lauded as one of the top 100 trial lawyers in the country.
But in the halls of the Law Center, he is just as likely to be talking about Cougar sports as he is the latest Supreme Court ruling. He bleeds UH red and white, and has rarely missed a game since he bought football and basketball season tickets in 1965.
“I live and die with my Cougars every Saturday during football season and on game days during basketball season,” he says with his trademarked grin.
So of course he was there to see his team’s recent win over Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl, its first post-season victory in 28 years.
“We had fun up in Fort Worth,” he says. “It was great to break that jinx.”
If UH sports have changed, so too has the law school that enrolled him in 1960.
“The law school was in the basement of the M.D. Anderson library,” he remembers. “No windows to the outside.
“Once you got in there you had no idea what might be going on outside…Very conducive to concentration,” he adds.
Those hours below ground paid off for the Galena Park kid who was “poorer than dirt” and hitchhiked between school and his full-time job when he started at UH as an undergraduate in 1957. In addition to his J.D., he holds a B.S. in Pre-law Studies.
After graduating at the top of his law school class, he was hired by Fulbright and Jaworski – reportedly the second hire of a UH grad – and went on to found his own firm in 1968, specializing in personal injury and medical malpractice. He also served over the years as an adjunct professor at the Law Center and this spring is teaching a course on the art of courtroom storytelling.
Today he practices in a successful plaintiffs firm founded by his son, Jim M. Perdue, Jr., a 1993 Law Center grad.
“I‘ve always said everything I am and have managed to do I owe to the University of Houston,” he says, “and if there had not been a University of Houston, I would probably be out climbing ladders at the Port of Houston or working on roofs somewhere.
“I started at the lowest rung on the ladder you could find.”