Milton H. West Jr. was born July 12, 1916, in the South Texas town of Floresville. He graduated from the University of Texas School of Law on June 5, 1939. He then went on to receive his LL.M. in taxation from Harvard Law School and in 1940 was hired by the Houston firm of Andrews, Kelly, Kurth, and Campbell (now Andrews Kurth), where he practiced for 55 years, rising to the rank of senior partner and handling cases for important clients, including Humble Oil and Refining, the King Ranch, the Yturria Ranch, and, most notably, Howard R. Hughes Jr. He maintained his office at Andrews Kurth for 20 additional years. Throughout his 98 years, West has embodied the true Texas spirit of hard work, good play, and strong convictions, with a passion for hunting Bobwhite quail, which he considers the gentleman’s sport, and a steely determination and consistency. Although West was unable to attend the 2014 State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting to receive the 75-year lawyer certificate, his son, Milton H. West III, an attorney in Houston, accepted it for him and graciously spoke with the Texas Bar Journal in July 2014 about his father’s career and life. Does practicing law run in the family? Yes, it does. His dad was assistant district attorney for the 28th Judicial District before he went on to serve as a U.S. congressman. He also was a Texas Ranger. In addition, several of our ancestors were county judges, going all the way back to Claiborne Larkin West, who was a representative for the Liberty District in 1832 and a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. I’m a lawyer and so is my youngest brother, Larry West. Your father fought in the Navy during World War II, rising to the rank of lieutenant and receiving several medals, including the Navy Bronze Star. How do you think his military experience affected his law career? He was immensely proud of his contribution to the war effort, although, like the rest of his generation, he rarely spoke of it. But I think it absolutely shaped him. After serving in so many battles, and facing certain death on several occasions, he just was not intimidated by regular life. Did he ever tell you about one of the first cases of his law career? For his first job, they sent him to the oil fields of Pennsylvania to protect a patent on Hughes’s newly designed studded drill bit. About midnight every night, he’d get the cops and go around to find these drilling operators, cutting costs, who would take the old drill bits and weld on new tips. Dad would get the old drill bit from them and give them the new tool bits. I said to him, “So your first job, you were a repo man?” and he said, “Yes, but a highly educated repo man.” Did he ever talk about any other memorable cases? No, he was pretty tight-lipped about that, which is why clients like Howard Hughes trusted him. There were some crazy stories that Howard would call him at all times of the day, including the middle of the night, to try to stay in touch. Keep in mind this was before any cellphones! Also, it was the attorney-client privilege—he didn’t tell me or his family much of anything. What was the biggest change that took place during his legal career? I asked Dad one time, “What do you think is the biggest change you’ve ever seen?” And he said, “By far, son, technology.” He used to remark that some of the older partners in the firm, when researching a point in the law, could just go to the South Western Reporter and pick the correct volume that they wanted. But Dad embraced technology. He was always buying the newest gadget. It was just a shame that he lost his cognitive ability before any of us could teach him how to get on the computer. Had he been able to master computer research, my goodness, he may never have slept. He loved the detail of life. What is the best lawyer advice your father has given you? It’s very simple. He said, “People are not going to care what you had to go through to get the job done, how late you had to stay up that night, or how hard you had to work. All they want to know is did you get it done?” Then he backtracked and said there was one exception: “If your mother dies, that’s the one and only excuse.” What was his greatest accomplishment? That’s a tough question. I’d have to say one was assisting with the developing, managing, and, ultimately, dismantling of the entire Hughes network of companies. I would say another was helping to build Andrews Kurth and recruiting exceptional law student talent for the firm, not the least of which was James A. Baker III, who went on to become the Secretary of State. Overall, his expertise in the field of taxation earned the respect of many clients all over the world. However, I asked him one time what he thought his greatest accomplishment was, and I was referring to law practice, but he answered without hesitation, “Oh, my family, by far.”
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