History of Southern Trial Lawyers and the War Horse Award

Southern Trial Lawyers was founded by a group of about a dozen or so lawyers.

Larry Smith had a big party in New Orleans and allowed people to ride on his float and go to his crew’s event. He had also developed a terrific seminar at this time, which was sponsored by the Louisiana Bar Association. As the organization was being formed, Larry Smith came up with the idea of calling it “Southern Trial Lawyers Association” which would be somewhat like the Western Trial Lawyers Association. He spoke to Frank Branson from Houston Texas about the organization and thus the two of them officially became the “co-founders”. The organization was formed with Lawrence “Larry” J. Smith as the first president in 1988. We had a party, we had an organization and we had a seminar, which has developed into one of the best in the country.

Larry Smith was speaking at a seminar in West Palm Beach and John Romano approached him and said we should do some things or take certain steps to make this organization “very special.” John suggested that Southern Trial Lawyers should give a special award to the most special of lawyers. Lawyers who were not only great courtroom advocates but who gave of their time, effort, energy, and money to organizations such as ATLA (now AAJ) and their state trial lawyers associations. Lawyers who were “true characters of their time.” Larry agreed and said this should be a special recognition. John came up with the “War Horse Award” and the criteria for selecting the recipients. Thus the birth of the Southern Trial Lawyers prestigious WarHorse Award. This award is given annually to a lawyer or lawyers at a black tie dinner and awards ceremony at the annual Mardi Gras Conference in New Orleans and is one of the highlights of the conference.

Criteria for a War Horse nominee:

  1. The recipient must be a lawyer who has practiced actively for 30 years or more.
  2. The lawyer must be recognized as a top courtroom advocate.
  3. The lawyer must truly and genuinely be a leader or had been a leader in the trial bar.
  4. The recipient must have contributed significantly to the teaching of trial advocacy through seminars and educational programs.
  5. The recipient must be considered one of the true characters of his time.

Esteemed War Horse Honorees:

Sidney S. McMath, AR Al J. Cone, FL Roscoe Ben Hogan, AL
Stanley E. Preiser, WV Joe E. Tonahill, TX George E. Allen, Jr., VA
Hon. Ross Anderson, SC Franklin Jones, TX Raymond H. Kierr, LA
Ward Wagner, Jr., FL John B. Wilson, TX J.D. Lee, TN
Betty A Thompson, VA Hon. Walter Niblock, AR Samuel Gainsburgh, LA
William E Johnson, KY Scott Baldwin, TX Bob Gibbins, TX
Allen Bailey, NC Charles Blanchard, NC Frank Haddad, KY
Sen. Howell Heflin, Wash., DC Hon. Thomas Miller, WV Joseph Jamail, TX
Bill Colson, FL Betty Love, AL Sidney Gilreath, TN
Tony Cunningham, FL Francis Hare, AL Pat Maloney, Sr., TX
Peter Perlman, KY Jerry McKernan, LA Tommy Malone, GA
Hon. Henry Woods, AR Morris Dees, AL William L. Thorp, NC
Vincent Glorioso, LA Philip Hirschkop, VA Bill Wagner, FL
Hon. William Wilson, AR Frank L. Branson, TX J. Kendall Few, SC
Murray Sams Jr., FL Lawrence J. Smith, LA Fred Gray, AL
Michael Maher, FL Nick C. Nichols, TX Gary Gober, TN
John F. Romano, FL Hon. Matthew Perry, SC Gov. Roy Barnes, GA
Gary Pillersdorf, NY Christian D. Searcy, FL John W. Walker, AR
Gordon Bonnyman, TN Jack Zimmerman, TX Robert T. Hall, VA
R Ben Hogan, III, AL Hon. George T. Smith, GA Howard Nations, TX
Hon. George Leighton, IL J. Lewis Cromer, SC Broadus Spivey, TX
Wayne Hogan, FL O. Fayrell Furr, Jr., SC Jere L. Beasley, AL
Chf. Justice Carol Hunstein, GA Robert Parks, FL Richard Shapiro, FL
J Marvin “Bo” Mullis, SC Alex Sanders, SC Earl Denham, MS
Andy Haggard, FL Wade Byrd, NC Kenneth Suggs, SC
Mary Alice McLarty, TX W. Coleman Allen, Jr., VA