By Carly Laucella
Renowned Baylor Law School professor, lawyer and beloved family man Matt Dawson died Tuesday. He was 98 years old.
Born March 20, 1916, in Waco, Dawson was tied to Baylor and the city of Waco from the very beginning. His father, Baylor alum J.M. Dawson, was the pastor at Waco’s First Baptist Church for 32 years.
Dawson’s mother, Willy Turner Dawson, devoted her time in Waco to make sure girls attending Baylor had an acceptable place to live. She is the namesake for Dawson Residence Hall.
Dawson grew up on Fifth Street, attended Waco High School and later graduated from Baylor University and Baylor Law School.
After moving to Longview post-graduation with a fellow Baylor Law School graduate to start up a law practice, Dawson eventually returned to Waco and Baylor.
After another break from practicing law during a stint in the Navy, Dawson returned to Texas and worked as a trial attorney at his brother’s law firm. He became known around Texas as an extremely dedicated and effective lawyer.
“His career in the courtroom also was a testimony to the wisdom of our jury system when a passionate and talented lawyer is the steward and protector of it as an advocate,” said Brad Toben, dean of Baylor Law School.
After 35 years working in the Texas legal system, Dawson took his love for law and became a professor at Baylor Law School. It was at this time he earned the nickname of “Mad Dog,” attributed to his drive and passion. As a faculty member at the law school, his involvement with Baylor Law’s Practice Court program and his mock trial teams earned the school many accolades. Dawson is known by his peers as a man blessed with craft of practicing law.
“I admired him deeply for who is was, how he lived his life, and for the example he set for all of us in the profession,” Toben said. “The likes of him will not pass this way again.”
After retiring from teaching in 1983, he continued as a trial attorney for 20 more years. He received many titles and honors, including the Texas Bar Foundation’s Outstanding 50-Year Lawyer award, and was named one of Texas Lawyer’s 100 Lawyer Legends of the 20th Century. As a tribute to Dawson’s work and dedication to Baylor, a life-sized statue was built in his honor outside a Practice Court classroom at the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center in 2009.
Gerald Powell, director of the Practice Court program and professor at Baylor Law School, described Dawson’s most memorable trait as his fearlessness.
Dawson’s wife of 60 years, Princess Louise, died in 1999. He is survived by his five children and their spouses: Donna and Dr. Robert Fisher; Rebecca and Jon Brumley; Mark Dawson; Carol Dawson; and John and Allie Dawson.
He also is survived by many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, relatives and friends.
When asked about his fondest memory of Dawson, Powell said, “watching him testify as an expert witness for a case I tried in Dallas. He did a beautiful job. He was very impressive.”
Services are at 2 p.m. today at First Baptist Church in Waco.