Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ken "Dude" McLean

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.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Character does count. Thank you for the inspiration, Murray.

jigmeister said...

I am really sorry to hear about Dude. He was one of the really classy people of the profession. And I don't mean how he dressed. When he handled a case, you didn't have to watch your back. He came at you from the front and played hard and fair. He never took personal shots. He was one of those who would give you the shirt off his back and whose name you would utter in the same breath as people like Mack Arnold and Big Ray Montgomery. A great loss.

Anonymous said...

I too, have my Dude stories, Murray. I'm so sorry to hear that he passed.

There is much that many of the new breed of "true believer" trial lawyers could learn from The Duke.

DLinds said...

What a character he was. I met him when he married my sister when I was a teen. Wow! His passing brings a flood of memories and the fact that so many years have so rapidly gone by since he overpaid me (my opinion) for building his beloved German Shephard Mix a huge dog house, and the times I would visit while on military leave-sitting down with him on the couch, watching a boxing match,football game or movie classic and while trying another one of his special blends of coffee. He was alway kind, inspiring, and a friend. He truly loved people. He was faithful and I know he is at peace. He will be missed more than he could imagine.

Roxy said...

In the case you tried against Dude in the209th, was the defendant named Deshun Thomas? Did you get the jury charge right this time? And how much time did he get?

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Roxy,
Yes, it was the case of Deshun Thomas. Yes, the jury charge was correct and it has subsequently been upheld on appeal.
He got 70 years TDCJ.

Roxy said...

Good.
That was a bad case and he deserved every day of those 70 years. --which is more than he got the first time.

The moral of that story is be careful what you ask for [on appeal - new trial] cause you just might get it.

Anonymous said...

I worked with Dude for years on appeals. He was relentless, days, nights, weekends striving for perfection. But when it came to extensions it was his honesty in requesting one that I remember most ---- counsel requests an extension because ---- I am not bionic, I am not superman, and my favorite I threw my computer out the window! I have missed working with him and love him dearly. There's a whole in the Judicial System now, and he will be missed.

Sincere condolences to his girls.

Anonymous said...

One of Dude's most endearing qualities, he absolutely hated Pat Lykos.

Anonymous said...

This is such a wonderful tribute to an amazing man. I have known "Dude" and his family since I was a child. He always had a smile whenever he saw me and I don't remember a time that he didn't come up to me, put his arm around me, and pat me on the back. That was the "Dude" that I knew. He wasn't a boastful man, he wasn't full of himself, and to be honest, I don't think he knew how GREAT he was.
I pray that Michala and Marnie will get through these difficult days ahead knowing that he thought they were the best daughters that God could have ever given to him.

DannyG said...

Dude was always a fine gentleman, so calm and self assured, and I got a kick out of his unusual, 4 button, very tailored, custom made suits and boots. I was very sorry to see him get sick and to suffer.
The story on the metro rail caught my interest, because last week I too rode the rail to the medical center rather than deal with the expense and hassle of valet parking. In my lawyer suit I stuck out like a sore thumb, and although I was not attacked, I was noticed and spoken to by a few homeless types on the train and one could easily see how it could become intimidating or even dangerous. It makes me wonder how much crime takes place on those trains and whether or not most riders even buy tickets.
Anyway, dude was one of a kind and he will be missed.

Danny G.

Michala McLean said...

My name is Michala McLean, I am Ken McLean's oldest daughter. I have unfortunately been laid off of my job and when cleaning out my computer today I came across this blog and postings regarding my Dad. My Dad was the most generous and kindhearted man I have ever known. He loved his job dearly and definitely loved to tell stories, as you all know. His unconditional love for my sister and I was incredible. He is greatly loved and missed each and everyday by the both of us. I can assure all of you that he was a Godly man and was definitely ready to be with Him. Watching him suffer was the most painful experience for my sister and I. Cancer is the devil. I appreciate all the kind words that were said about my Dad. I am honored to say, that Ken J. McLean "Dude" was my father/dad.

Michala McLean said...

My name is Michala McLean, Ken McLean's oldest daugther. While cleaning out my computer I came across this blog, that my Dad's secretary, Kimberly Holt had sent me in 2009 after his passing. I appreciate all the kind words that were expressed regarding my Dad. He was a generous, hard-working, kind man. He is missed terribly by my sister and I each and everyday and I know by so many others. Watching him suffer was the most painful experience my sister and I had ever endured. Cancer is the devil. My Dad was a Godly man and reassured me that he was ready to be with the Lord. In his own words, "I'm tired, I am ready to go home." After hearing those words I knew. Two days later he passed. I am proud to say that Ken J. McLean was my Father/Dad.