I learned yesterday the sad news that Victor Blaine passed away. I am very sad for his family. I am also very sad for the entire Houston legal community. Victor’s death is a painful loss for all of us who knew this wonderful man.
Victor Blaine was a great man and a great lawyer. I loved Victor Blaine. It was hard not to.
In the early 1980s, when I was a baby lawyer, I remember going to the Criminal Courthouse looking for a trial to watch. In most courts I saw lawyers pleading clients guilty or joking around. I didnt see any lawyer acting like what I expected a criminal defense lawyer to act like. Then I walked into the Eva Lott trial and all that changed.
The Eva Lott trial was in one of the big courtrooms at the old courthouse. Eva Lott & her boyfriend were accused of murdering her child. It was an ugly, high publicity case.
As soon as I entered the courtroom I heard his voice. The voice was not loud, but it was very powerful. I saw a tall, lanky,handsome defense lawyer who was in constant motion. He owned the Courtroom. His words were carefully chosen, eloquent and intelligent. He had an unmistakable charisma. His very presence made the entire courtroom smarter and more humane.
This was Victor Blaine.
Pretty quickly I knew I was watching a great lawyer in action. He was as comfortable in the courtroom as any lawyer I have ever seen. I remember thinking there was something about Him that reminded me of an eagle. There was something otherworldly, something noble about him.
I don’t know what I had planned for the next few days. I do know I forgot all that, and returned daily to watch Victor fight like hell for his client. Victor was a cross between Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch and Jimmy Stewart’s Paul Biegler. He was at once modest, tenacious, small town and wise. Victor was a natural born criminal defense lawyer. He was a tough man, but as I would learn, he had a tender heart. He cared about his clients. Being a criminal defense lawyer was much more than a job to Victor.
At the end of the Eva Lott trial, I sheepishly introduced myself & Victor was as kind as he could be. In the time that followed, I remember how friendly Victor was to me as a young lawyer. I was always suprised and happy in the courthouse halls when this great lawyer and great man would call out my name. I couldnt believe he even knew my name.
I came to learn this was Victor’s nature. He was a kind-hearted man. It was quite natural for Victor to be nice to a young lawyer. Victor was the quintessential Southern Gentleman.
Victor was a hero to me. He was a great lawyer who lacked the conceit so often found amoung great lawyers. While Victor was always confident, he was never arrogant. Victor was without pretense. He carried himself in an unassuming manner. This caused more than a few overconfident prosecutors to learn the hard way that beneath Victor’s unassuming manner, was a lawyer who was fully prepared to school them. Year after year Victor tried and won cases. I never once heard him brag; Victor didnt brag. He didnt need to.
For the next 30 years, when Victor was visiting with clients in the halls, I would often interrupt and ask the clients if Victor was their lawyer. I knew the answer. But I rarely missed a chance to tell Victor’s clients just how great he was. I knew Victor would not brag on himself, so I bragged on him. I would tell his clients how lucky they were to have Victor as their lawyer. They would nod but that never quite satified me that they really knew how lucky they were. Often I would launch into a full blown speech about how Victor Blaine was the first “Real Lawyer” I ever met. Over the years, Victor would smile and patiently endure my interruptions and my unneeded praise.
Victor was from Mississippi. He served in the Army and came to Houston when there were only 3 Federal courts in the Downtown Post office. He tried his hand at insurance but found it boring. He soon became a criminal defense lawyer. It didnt take him long to realize this was his calling. There are thousands of Houston families whose loved one’s liberty was saved because Victor Blaine found his calling as a criminal defense lawyer.
Somewhere along the way, Victor and I had co-defendants. I was very happy to get to fight side by side with Victor. It was a drug case. Victor studied the case and soon advised that we should both pursue an entrapment defense. Of course entrapment is very hard to prove. I talked to Victor about my concerns. Victor heard me out, but he was confident we would win with entrapment. We had the hearing, Victor took the lead asserting entrapment and just as Victor predicted we won.
In 2002, the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association presented Victor with the Lifetime Achievement Award. HCCLA Honored Victor for all his great work as a Criminal Defense Lawyer. For me their was a private honor. It was my honor to present the award to Victor. Presenting Victor Blaine, with the HCCLA Lifetime Achievement Award, remains one of my most cherished memories as a lawyer. Its the first photo on the wall as you enter my office. A younger version of me standing with the first Real Lawyer I ever met: Victor Blaine the Eagle.
Back in 2002, we thought Victor might be ready to retire. We were wrong. It was always a mistake to underestimate Victor Blaine. A mistake prosecutors never made twice. Victor practiced up until the very end. And Victor’s mind was always sharp.
Victor has a beautiful wife, Fama. Victor and Mrs Blaine were inseparable. I would see them together in restaurants or bookstores. Just as in the Courthouse, I would interrupt them and needlessly remind Mrs. Blaine about what a great man her husband was. Mrs Blaine was as modest as Victor, but she always beamed with pride when I recounted stories of Victor.
Last year when my own mother was in Methodist, Victor was on the same floor. I visited with Victor & Mrs Blaine. Even in the hospital, Victor was in good spirits. Victor had never met my mother, but her well-being immediately became a concern to him. I sent Victor a plant from me & HCCLA.
We have lost one of the finest criminal defense lawyers that this community has ever known. A truly great man and a truly great lawyer, an Eagle.
I will miss Victor. I know I am not alone.
God Bless Victor Blaine & his family.
Robb Fickman, Houston
Sent from my iPhone