I learned the sad news that our friend and distinguished member of the Defense Bar, Dude McLean passed away earlier this week.
Although I had seen Dude around the courthouse during my entire time as a prosecutor, I never really got to know Dude until we tried a very brutal Aggravated Robbery case against each other in Judge McSpadden's court in 2006. It was a re-trial of a case that Dude had gotten flipped on appeal, and was taking it to trial. The victim of the aggravated robbery (who had been shot during the crime) had subsequently died from other reasons, and the case was very sad. From the State's perspective, the case was a "whale", and Dude didn't have much to work with, but that didn't slow him down in the slightest. He threw his heart and soul into the case and tried it with grace and dignity.
In the weeks leading up to the trial, I mentioned to my dad, during a trip home, that I was trying a case against Dude, and my dad was very excited about it. Dad had known Dude and taken classes with him when they were both at A & M. He told me that Dude had been a legendary wide receiver for the Aggies and told me the story of a play called "the Aggie Special" that Dude had been the star of.
When I talked to Dude about our Aggie connection and my Dad, we became fast friends. He told me priceless stories of what playing college football was like for A & M in the early 1960s, and then in the pros. We learned how many friends we still had in common in Brazos County, especially Judge Travis Bryan III, who had been a great friend of Dude's, and my across-the-street neighbor growing up. Dude rarely made a trip to Brazos County where he didn't seek me out in the courtroom the next day to tell me about it.
When I made my transition to the Defense Bar, Dude offered to do anything he could to help me out. Even as his health was starting to fail him, he still was so willing to help with anything he could. He was such a very very kind man.
During the trial that he and I tried together in Judge McSpadden's court, Dude approached the (now-deceased) victim's mother and took her hands is his and expressed his sincere condolences that her son had passed away. He did it in private and he didn't do it for show. He did it because he cared. He did it because he was a good, sweet, and decent man. In our often dark world of the CJC, Dude always seemed so upbeat and optimistic.
Late last year, his health was clearly taking a turn for the worse, but I never heard him complain of it. I would ask him how he was doing, and he would waive off the question like he had never felt better. He always smiled and he always wanted to talk.
One day, Dude came into my court, smiling from ear to ear, and told me he had to tell me a story. We went into the back and he told me how he had been riding on the MetroRail to the doctor when two gangster-looking folks had approached him and started asking him some very pointed questions about how expensive his suit was and how much money he had on him. Of course, it had subsequently erupted into a fight on the MetroRail, and Dude proudly told me how he (with a little help from another passenger), had managed to subdue the two gangsters.
He was so thrilled that a man in his late 60s and going through cancer treatment could still handle two young punks that tried to jump him on the train. I think the incident actually made his day. The police had arrived and arrested the would-be crooks.
"Did they charge them with assault or robbery?" I asked Dude. Dude looked a little taken aback for a minute.
"You know," he said. "Come to think of it, I guess they were going to rob me!"
The point of the story is that Dude always had such a cheerful and unbridled optimism about things that he went through. Only Dude could have had fun during a robbery.
I'm going to miss that cheerfulness and that kindness in the courtroom. He was a good friend.
Most of all, I'm going to miss his stories.