John Lancaster Estes
March 9, 1933 – June 14, 2020
John was born in Waxahachie, Texas and died at his home in Dallas, Texas. He was 87 years old. His wife, Melba Hancock Estes, Son Phillip Chapman Estes, parent’s Ted Ghent and Ruth Chapman Estes and Sister-in-law Sally Risser Estes, preceded him in death.
John married his high school sweetheart, Melba Hancock Estes, on August 7, 1954 and they were married 61 years at the time of her death in 2016. John and Melba had two children, Phillip, who died in 1988 and Clay. Clay and his wife Brenda have four children: Laura King (Taylor), Hunter Estes, Libby Koop (Chad) and Hayden Estes. John had one great-grandson, Wesley Chapman King. He was very proud of his grandchildren and his great grandson and enjoyed many good times with them. They were the pride of his life.
John graduated from Waxahachie High School and was later inducted into the Waxahachie High Hall of Fame in 2010. John attended the University of Texas in Austin, obtaining a BBA degree in 1955 and an LLB degree in 1956. While at The University, he was an active member and officer of the Kappa Alpha Order and participated in numerous campus activities. He later served as Province Commander of his fraternity. He played freshman football at The University of Texas and was a lifetime devotee of The University, their sports and the Law School.
Upon graduation from law school, he spent two years in the U.S. Army in El Paso, after which he returned to Austin and served as an Assistant Attorney General for three years. In 1961 John and Melba moved to Dallas and he joined the firm of Burford, Ryburn & Ford, where he was an associate and then a partner. He later joined Locke, Purnell, Boren, Laney & Neely in 1969, first as an associate and then a partner. He was a civil trial lawyer during his active practice until 1991 when he became a mediator and arbitrator, having mediated over 1,300 disputes. He retired from the firm; now known as Locke Lord in 2011, after his association with the firm for over 42 years.
John was proud to be a lawyer and a member of the profession. He always believed that every professional had an obligation to support their profession and its goals. He was very proud that so many fellow lawyers expressed that they knew that when he promised something, you could depend upon it.
John was well known for his wit and sense of humor, his allegiance to the University of Texas, local sports teams, his profession, and international big game hunting. He was also well known for his omnipresent cigar, which he used to smoke, but in later years only chewed. Because of his large size, he acquired the nickname, “Big John” and frequently wore boots from his collection of handmade, personalized cowboy boots, which are now being worn by his grandson, Hayden.
While on the Attorney General’s staff he was very active in the Austin Junior Bar Association. Upon moving to Dallas he continued an active participation in the Dallas Junior Bar and the Dallas Bar Association. He was also active in the State Bar of Texas, serving on several committees and was chairman of the Publications Committee and the 1971 State Bar Convention Committee in Dallas. His active participation in the Dallas Bar Association soon progressed to his election to the Board of Directors and later Chair of the Board. In 1971 he was elected President-Elect of the Dallas Bar and served as President in 1973, the Centennial Year of the Dallas Bar Association.
For a number of years he chaired the committee which facilitated lawyers appearing weekly on “Ask the Lawyer” broadcast on KRLD. At the time it was the longest running radio program on any Dallas station.
John was very active in raising the funds for the acquisition of the Belo Mansion by the Dallas Bar and its initial restoration. He was instrumental in arranging for the Lincoln Cathedral’s exemplar of the Magna Charta to be displayed at the Belo Mansion.
He was also elected to a three term on the Board of Directors of the State Bar of Texas and served six years as the representative of the Dallas Bar in the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association.
In 1988 he received the “Trial Lawyer of the Year” Award from the Dallas Bar. In 2009 he received the annual recognition from the Fellows of the Dallas Bar Foundation, and in 2012 he received the Outstanding 50 Year Lawyer Award from the State Bar Foundation.
During his years of active practice, he received special enjoyment in mentoring younger lawyers. He was a person of great integrity and character. His legacy and example of professionalism will live on.
John was also very active in the affairs of the UT Law School and served as a Trustee of the Law School Foundation for thirty years, until he became a Senior Trustee in which capacity he served until his death. He served about ten years a Chairman of the Budget Committee.
John was also a long time member of the Texas Association of Defense Counsel and served on its Board and as an officer. He was also an Advocate member of the American Board of Trial Advocates.
John also served as a Trustee of the Southwestern Legal Foundation, later known as the Center for American and International Law. He was a Trustee emeritus at his death.
John was actively engaged in some political races, especially supporting judicial candidates, although he never ran for any public office. He was heavily involved in organizing the Committee for a Qualified Judiciary—a non-partisan effort to investigate and interview judicial candidates and identify those who were qualified for the judicial office being sought. He was Chairman of the Evaluation Committee and later CQJ Chairman.
He also served on the Board of Governors of the Dallas Foundation and was a member of the Dallas Assembly. He served on the Board of the Dallas Zoological Society.
John and Melba belonged to the Park Cities Presbyterian Church.
Aside from his family and his devotion to his profession, his law firm and the organized bar, John’s other passion was international big game hunting. He collected all 31 of the North America species, as recognized by the Boone & Crockett Club. He traveled to all six continents where game animals occur and hunted in over thirty countries, some multiple times. He made 15 trips to Africa, sometimes combining safaris on one trip. Cumulatively, he spent fourteen months in Africa. He hunted extensively in Alaska, Canada, and Mexico, as well as South America, New Zealand and Australia. He hunted many times in Europe and Asia. Overall, he collected over 275 species, not including many species of game birds. Most were mounted in his trophy room in his home. He had many artifacts collected on his travels.
His travels afforded him the opportunity to see many exotic places in the world, such as the Cape of Good Hope, the pyramids and antiquities of Egypt. He visited many of the historical sights of Turkey and China. He visited Moscow five times. Some of the places he traveled were not so exotic nor afforded much creature comfort.
John was a founding, charter member of the Dallas Safari Club and served as its president in 1979-80. He received the Club’s highest recognition: The Outstanding Hunter Achievement Award in 1996.
Safari Club International also recognized him with their World Hunting Award. He also received the Grand Slam Award, Sheep of the World Award, Capra (mountain goats) of the World Award and the Triple Slam Award from the Grand Slam/Ovis Club.
He was a life member of the National Rifle Association and a Regular member of the Boone & Crockett Club, founded by Theodore Roosevelt over 125 years ago. As a Regular member he was one of 100 voting members. He was a member of Shikar Safari Club International, many other hunting organizations and the Explorer’s Club
He enjoyed hunting prairie dogs in Wyoming for many years, concentrating on long shots, having collected several over 1,000 yards. His longest was just over a mile.
Burial will be on Saturday, June 20, 2020 at Waxahachie City Cemetery at 11:00 am. A private memorial service will be held at Sparkman Hillcrest Funeral Home at 2:00 p.m. Due to the social distancing restrictions of limited attendance the service will be live streamed. Instructions for the live stream can be found on the Sparkman Hillcrest website www.sparkman-hillcrest.com . In lieu of flowers you are requested to make a contribution to the John and Melba Estes Visiting Professorship at the University of Texas School of Law, 727 E. Dean Keeton Street, Austin, TX 78705, or to the charity of your choice. Acknowledgments can be sent to the family at 11420 Wonderland Trail, Dallas, TX 75229.
Posted online on June 19, 2020