Walter Beckham (1920-2011)

At the time of his death, Walter Beckham was Of Counsel to the firm. Along with Aaron Podhurst, Walter Beckham was a founder of our firm, and it is fair to say that few other lawyers in America have as distinguished a record or reputation. He maintained his close association and long relationship with the firm until his death.

In 1941, Walter received his B.A. degree with honors in American History from Emory University. Immediately after graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve. Walter was on active duty from 1941-1946 in the Pacific Theater of World War II. By the end of the war, he had earned the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Walter continued his service in the U.S. Naval Reserve after the war and retired with the rank of Captain after 28 years.

After leaving active duty in 1946, Walter entered Harvard Law School where he graduated cum laude in 1948 with a L.L.B. degree. While at Harvard, Walter was awarded the James A. Rumrill Scholarship and served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review (Vol.61). After graduating from Harvard, Walter returned to Miami and joined the University of Miami faculty as an Associate Professor of Law. In 1949 he was admitted to the Florida Bar as one of its 151 charter members and joined the law firm of Dixon, DeJarnette and Bradford of Miami; he continued on the faculty of the Law School for 2 years, teaching classes at night. In October, 1950, he joined the Law Firm of Nichols, Gaither & Green, making partner in 1952. When the firm dissolved in 1967, Walter became Of Counsel to his then-associate Aaron Podhurst’s new firm.

In 1967, Walter also returned to teaching at the University of Miami as a professor of Law. He taught torts, medical-legal trial tactics, and with the assistance of Dean Fred Lewis, he started the school’s civil trial advocacy course. While there, he also founded the Medical Institute for Attorneys and served as its Director for 15 years. He retired in 1982 as a Professor Emeritus. Walter and his wife, Ethel, established a scholarship at the University of Miami School of Law – the Walter and Ethel Beckham Scholarship – for students enrolled in the J.D. Program.

During his extraordinary career as a trial attorney, Walter was widely recognized as one of the best trial lawyers in the nation. He was accepted to membership in the American Law Institute, the American College of Trial Lawyers, the Inner Circle of Advocates, and the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, where he served as President. He was a founding member and trustee of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, and served as Chairman respectively of the Aviation Law Section of the American Trial Lawyers Association, the Trial, Tort and Insurance Practice Section of the American Bar Association, the National Institute for Trial Advocacy and the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada. Walter is the only non-judge to have served as Chair of the National Judicial College. Walter was also a member and frequent speaker in the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association from 1979 – 1995, during which time he served a four-year term as Secretary of the Association.

Walter received several awards for his contributions to the legal profession: in 1984, he received the Perry Nichols Award from the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers; in 2004, he was the recipient of the William M. Hoeveler Award from the Center for Ethics & Public Service at the University of Miami School of Law; and in 2009, he received the Legal Legends Award from the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Historical Society. Walter was listed in both Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World.