The Smith County Bar Association and foundation honored five people for their positive contributions to the legal community at a luncheon on Wednesday.
Ruth Yeager, president of the Smith County Bar Foundation, said the event coincides with Law Day, which was created under Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency to recognize outstanding professionals and educate the public on the rule of law.
James W. “Jim” Knowles was awarded the Justinian Award, the highest honor the association bestows each year.
Bill Cornelius, who presented the honor to his friend, said he asked his mentor Judge William Wayne Justice’s advice when he decided to move into the Wilson Law Firm to practice privately.
“He looked at me and he said, ‘Bill, if I ever found myself in real trouble the person I would go see is Jim Knowles,’ and that endorsement not only carries a lot of weight, it exemplifies what is so special and so unique about Jim,” Cornelius said.
Cornelius said Knowles is a quality human being, a devoted family man, Christ follower who has the ability to relate to all people. He said that is a good reason why he has been successful in his decades practicing law.
The award of excellence was given to Thomas J. “Tom” Brown.
Brown is a devoted family man with a dedication Christ and an avid supporter for the Children’s Miracle Network, his friend Whit Riter, who presented the award, said.
Riter said Brown had “a gazillion friends, not just a million.”
The Liberty Bell Award was given to current Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith.
The Honorable Judge Jack Skeen said he clearly can remember the first time he met the sheriff. At the time, Smith was in drug enforcement academy with ATF, and he was subpoenaed to testify in a local case.
“He had on the shiniest pair of brand new shoes and had a hair cut a lot different than he does now,” the judge said. “He was pacing.”
Skeen said he looked nervous.
“The reason I’m pacing is as soon as you get me off the witness stand, I will be able to leave on my honeymoon,” Smith told Skeen.
Since then, Skeen said it always has been a pleasure to work with Smith.
Matt Rowan joked that his friend and colleague Daniel A. “Danny” Noteware, recipient of the SCYLA Outstanding Young Lawyer, was both one of his favorite people and one of the most annoying.
“From the minute Danny got there (the Law Offices of Potter Minton), he was subject of my admiration because of a work ethic that was unparalleled,” Rowan said. “He seems to get more done in 10 minutes than I get done in a week. He’s friendly and likeable, and everyone likes him, and it’s frankly a little bit annoying.”
J. Bennett White said he was honored that Twyla Fields, TAALP Legal Professional of the Year, picked his firm to work for more than 20 years ago.
“The best way to describe Twyla is she is a force to reckon with,” White said. Fundamentally, it’s about the clients, the client’s needs are paramount. She takes that seriously, and she embraces the ethical standards that go with that.”