What I Have Become by Bill Wood

Written by Bill Wood

..Born in Smackover, Arkansas into the family of my parents Buddy and Margaret, and sisters Pat and Ann, I was “the baby”. Somehow I developed a very early love for sports which has stayed with me all of my life. One of may earliest memories from age four or five involves dribbling the basketball on the wooden floor of the kitchen and shooting layups on the door facing. I was allowed to do that because I was “the baby.” After we moved to Midland just before I turned six, I played every sport that was available…YMCA flag football, YMCA basketball, Little League Baseball and it seemed like I trained all year long for the once a year field day featuring sprints, relays, broad jump and high jump at West Elementary. I was just a kid, but I had an enduring love for competition. I think that love for competition (and drinking whatever was in the Midland water) led me to “what I have become.”

     Most people know that “have the dream” for a young boy or man refers to dreaming of playing major league baseball. Well, I didn’t play professional baseball but I sure did “have the dream” till I was nearly 20 years old. It was important to me. As a 23 year old I played on a Texas all star team that traveled to Monterey, Mexico to play a three game series against the team that, a year earlier, had won the Little League World series with an ambidextrous pitcher. We faced him in game one pitching right handed and in game three pitching left handed. That third game went two extra innings and he pitched the complete game. The crowd was to a packed stadium of forty thousand people…quite an experience. Of course, my Dad was there, as always. Two years later, as a 15 year old, our Midland team (consisting of a mixture of Lee and MHS players) won a state championship. I’ve written about this before, and explained about the loss of my long time ball playing friend, Ronnie Bittick due to a ball hitting his head as he was sliding into second. Here’s a picture of that team celebrating our championship. Ronnie’s Dad and two younger brothers are in the picture. We signed and delivered to them all seven of the game balls as we played all over Texas, ending with the championship game in Fort Worth and they were there.

     Of course no one took pictures then like they do now but here are some from high school and college while I still had “the dream.”     Have I mentioned that my mother kept a scrapbook? 

I was not aware that most of these things existed until she gave it to me when I left for school in North Carolina. Having “the dream” was healthy. After my second knee operation from football at UNC, it really wasn’t to hard to come to grips with not having “it” anymore. I just went on to find another way to compete.
     I really loved basketball and played it through my freshman year in college. I just committed too much time and energy to football and baseball to keep it up. Here are some pictures of my days on the court.

     I did not become a professional basketball player but I did learn a lot about the relationship between great effort and great rewards. I passed that along to my children and other people that would listen over the years in the roles I did assume. I recall that starting at about age 12, my dad would let me back his car up from our carport and turn the lights on bright so I could shoot baskets in our driveway from about 5:00 to 6:30 AM. Practice didn’t make perfect but practice sure made a difference. I did that till I could drive and until Coach King and Coach Spears got me a key to the gym and I did my extra practice there. 
     Football captured most young boys’ imagination in Midland. I was hooked! There was never an empty seat in Midland Memorial stadium. Here are some pictures…most from mother’s scrapbook but a few from the annual.

    Well, I didn’t become a professional football player either. But, I had a great time, gave great effort and played as long as I could. I needed more size and more talent to  go along with the “want to.”
     Growing up in Midland and seeing guys like Larry Cooper and Knox Nunley receive the Outstanding Athlete Award was something that drove me. It meant a lot for me to receive it from Coach King.

     Something else I didn’t become was a politician. I always really enjoyed speaking to groups and it seemed like I ran for a lot of offices and entered a lot of speech contests. My good friend Dick Kimbrough was president of the MHS student council our senior year and I was President of the Texas Association of Student Councils. It was a great experience. Both Mr. Mashburn and my mother helped me with all of the speeches. Also, getting to spend a week in Washington, D.C. in the Senate Youth Program made it seem to me that a political path was probable.

     I am not sure what turned me away  from politics, but something did. So, I didn’t become a politician either.
     I loved to sing and still do. One of my daughters is a singer song writer who has done very well. In sixth grade at West Elementary our barbershop quartet won a state competition in Dallas. I sang in choirs at the First Methodist Church and with an occasional group over the years. Here is an old picture that was in the Catoica.

     Neither did I become a real singer.
     What I became is a husband, a father, a coach and a trial lawyer. I married the beautiful Terri Stricklin in 1973, not too long after we met when I moved to Denton, Texas to start my law practice. We have three children, Ashley, Sean and Paige and each of them are married and have two children each. We have six grandchildren and all of them (and our children now also) call me Coach. Being a coach is the only other thing I considered before going to law school. Its that love of competition thing. I coached our girls in softball and basketball from first grade through the sixth grade. I coached our son in basketball through the sixth grade and baseball from T ball all the way through Little League, Pony League, the High School summer team and a college summer team. Along the way I coached the children of many of our friends and they still all call me coach. I love that. Did I mention that my children have a keen sense of competition? I’m proud of them for that and many other things. I have told them many times to make their mistakes in life on their toes and not on their heels. They get that.
     As a trial lawyer, I think I was lucky to come around at the right time. Lawyers just don’t try as many cases now as they used to so its a bit of a dying art. I have tried way north of 300 jury trials, many bench trials and a fair number of arbitrations. I’ve tried cases in a number of different states but the lion’s share of them have been in Texas. Early in my career I tried a lot of criminal cases including three death penalty cases and lots of others. That was the quickest way for a young lawyer to get trial experience and that’s what I wanted. Its been over 25 years since I tried my last criminal case but I have been board certified in criminal law and still hold board certifications in personal injury trial law and civil trial law.
     We have all heard about lawyers who “have never lost a case.” Well that’s not me. I think its true that the lawyer who says he or she has never lost a case either “ain’t tried any” or “ain’t tried many.” I’ve lost some that I think I should have won and won some that I probably should have lost. 
     Being a trial lawyer has suited me. I have a small firm with people who have been together for many years. Occasionally, I am called Coach at the office. Of course I love that. For the most part, we help people that really need help and often find ourselves in battle against large companies and big law firms. As I have said, I love to compete and this kind of career has satisfied that personal desire.
     I’m proud to have the highest rank in the American Board of Trial Advocates. My partner Grace Weatherly and I are the only two from Denton ever admitted. Grace has dedicated a lot of time to ABOTA and will soon move from president elect to  National president. Somehow I am the only lawyer from Denton ever admitted to the American College of Trial Lawyers.
     So, I didn’t  become a professional athlete, a politician or a singer, but I sure am proud to have become a husband, father, coach and trial lawyer! 

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