Knox Dillon Nunnally, “Ocho-Ocho”, left us at ten o’clock in the evening on Monday, the 16th of July 2012. He has taken his last stiff drink of yesterday’s wine and danced his last dance. The mariachis are still playing and his beloved bird boys are crying in the rain. Ocho-Ocho came by his nickname from his many hunting trips to the once tranquil dove shooting fields of northern Mexico that he loved so much, in and around the Rio San Diego Hunting Club outside of Ciudad Acuña, and at the No Le Hace Lodge in the San Fernando Valley, where he established a very special relationship with his bird boys. He enjoyed their company as they did his. Waves of chants of “Viva Ocho-Ocho!” often went down the shooting line in honor of a particularly fine shot and were always sent in good humor to Ocho-Ocho’s hunting companions. At the end of the shooting, when it came time for bragging rights and cervezas were being shared, his bird boys always made sure his bag of dove was as full as any shooter’s bag.
Knox Dillon Nunnally was born at his mother’s ancestral home in Haynesville, Louisiana, on the 26th of January 1943. The Knox family was of pioneer stock, having settled in north Louisiana prior to the great American Civil War. Both his maternal and paternal great grandfathers were civil war veterans who fought in the defense of Port Gibson and in the trenches during the siege at Vicksburg. Mr. Nunnally was raised in West Texas by his “doodlebugger” father, Miles Dillon Nunnally, and schoolteacher mother, Linnie Mat Knox Nunnally. In 1961, he graduated from Midland High School, where he was an outstanding athlete earning all West Texas honors in football and basketball. His classmates voted him Midland High School’s most outstanding athlete and most representative male member of the class of 1961.
In 1961, Mr. Nunnally entered the University of Texas at Austin on a football athletic scholarship and played on two Cotton Bowl teams and an Orange Bowl team for the legendary coach, Darryl Royal. His 1963 Longhorn team was voted the 1963 National Champions, the first by a University of Texas team. Knox was recruited to play at UT by the much beloved and long time defensive coordinator, Iron Mike Campbell. When asked once to describe what kind of a motor Knox played with, Coach Campbell’s reply was that Knox dances every dance. Just as in football, that was his approach to life. Mr. Nunnally always took great pride in the fact that in his three varsity seasons as a Longhorn, with two lifelong friends and teammates, Ernie Koy and Pete Lammons, the teams he played on never lost to the Sooners or the Aggies. Mr. Nunnally played on Longhorn teams that won 30 games, lost two and tied one. He was a part of the great Texas defenses of the 1960’s that won pivotal games in the Southwest Conference over some of the greatest quarterbacks of college football at that time: Don Trull of Baylor, Roger Staubach of Navy, and Joe Namath of Alabama; and he was a part of the goal line stand that preserved the victory over number one ranked Alabama in the first night Orange Bowl game in January of 1964. He was a unanimous selection as an All-Southwest Conference defensive end his senior year in 1964. He likewise was named to the Academic All-American Football Squad. In 2008, Knox was inducted into the 52nd University of Texas Longhorn Hall of Honor Class, which honors individuals who possessed outstanding ability in sports, as well as sportsmanship, character, and integrity and who have brought great distinction to the University of Texas.
While at the University of Texas at Austin he was a member of the Texas Beta Chapter of Phi Delta Theta, the Silver Spurs, and Omicron Delta Kappa. He was honored as the outstanding University of Texas intercollegiate letterman for 1965.
After finishing undergraduate school in 1965, he entered the University of Texas School of Law, where he graduated with honors in 1968 and was a member of Phi Delta Phi. While at the University of Texas School of Law, he played intramural football for the most successful intramural team ever, the Legal Eagles coached by the equally legendary constitutional law scholar and life mentor, Charles Alan Wright.
In 1968, he started work as a young trial lawyer for Vinson, Elkins, Weems & Searls in Houston. He was named a partner in 1975, when the firm was known as Vinson, Elkins, Weems, Searls & Connally. Mr. Nunnally worked at Vinson & Elkins, an institution he loved, for more than 40 years. It was never ever a job, but a calling where he served at various times as Chairman of the firm’s litigation section.
Mr. Nunnally married the love of his life, Kay Clyde Webb in 1975 and their only son, Kevin Knox Nunnally, was born in 1978. Kay was herself an outstanding student at the University of Texas, where she graduated from The School of Education in 1966 and taught the children of our great state until her retirement from teaching. Knox and Kay were always bound to live a life together as they shared a common cultural heritage from the best values of the old south. Both their families were raised in the pine tree red clay rural area of southern Arkansas and North Louisiana. They were born 18 miles apart and their parents had known each other all their lives. As parents, they could not have been prouder of the son they raised, based on these very same values that led him to choose the challenging life of a Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy and a commission in the United States Marine Corps. The raising of a son who answered his country’s call and went in harm’s way on three combat tours in Iraq has been an immeasurable source of pride for the Nunnally family. Kevin Knox graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in May, 2009 and is now a practicing lawyer in Houston.
Knox Nunnally was considered a trial lawyer’s trial lawyer and tried cases all over the great State of Texas. He started more than 150 jury trials and took more than 100 cases to jury verdict. He was chosen as a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers in 1995.
Without a doubt, the most important case Mr. Nunnally handled was when he successfully defended a Marine officer Pro Bono in a 17 day Court of Inquiry at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in 2008. This was the first Court of Inquiry conducted by the Marine Corps in fifty years, and arose out of false allegations of excessive and indiscriminate force allegedly used by special operation marines in defending against an ambush in Afghanistan near the village of Bati Kot just to the west of the ancient Khyber Pass. Ultimately, a Court of Inquiry panel filled with officers with combat experience reached the right decision that the rules of war were followed by these Marines.
In June 2000, Knox was named by The Texas Lawyer as one of the 100 Legal Legends who helped shaped law and lawyering in Texas in the Twentieth Century. In 2003, Knox received the prestigious Ronald D. Secrest Outstanding Trial Lawyer Award from the Texas Bar Foundation, which honors the trial lawyer who by his or her practice has demonstrated outstanding trial and advocacy skills, high ethical and moral standards and exceptional professional conduct thus enhancing the image of trial lawyers.
Mr. Nunnally was a member of the River Oaks Country Club, Rio San Diego Club, and Batesville Hunting Club. One of the great loves of his life was the operation of his Austin County ranch, Buffalo Creek.
Mr. Nunnally was predeceased by his parents, Linnie Mat Knox Nunnally and Miles Dillon Nunnally. Mr. Nunnally is survived by his wife of 38 years, Kay Clyde Webb Nunnally, and his son, Kevin Knox Nunnally. The Nunnally family was blessed to have a wonderful caregiver in Elvira Delgado, who was truly an angel in her care to both Mr. and Mrs. Nunnally through the long battle fought against his brain cancer.
Throughout the entire battle, the support of Knox’s long-time secretary, Donna Richard, kept all things in his life orderly and managed in such a way that provided great comfort to the family and for which they are so appreciative.
No medical team, including Dr. Richard Harper, Dr. Yvonne Kew, Dr. Karl Tomm, Dr. Jay Oates, and Dr. J. A. Michael Klebuc, could have fought a more determined fight for which the family is so appreciative. The entire Methodist Hospital System was always a warm haven of support as was the St. Luke’s United Methodist Church family.
Knox Dillon Nunnally was truly an outstanding son, husband, father, and friend who loved life and lived it to the fullest.
Friends are cordially invited to gather with the family during a reception from five o’clock in the afternoon until eight o’clock in the evening on Thursday, the 19th of July, in the Grand Foyer of Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive, in Houston.
A memorial service is to be conducted at two o’clock in the afternoon on Friday, the 20th of July, in the sanctuary of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, 3471 Westheimer Road, in Houston, where Dr. Tom Pace, Senior Pastor, and Rev. Ron Morris are to officiate. Immediately following, all are invited to greet the family during a reception at a venue to be announced at the service.
In lieu of customary remembrances, the family requests with gratitude that memorial contributions in Mr. Nunnally’s name be directed to the charity of one’s choice.
“This is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad in it.”