Back in February of 1994, I was the ripe old age of twenty-one and a student at Texas A & M. I started an academic internship with the Brazos County District Attorney's Office, working for Bill Turner. Bill put me under the supervision of his investigator, Gil Schultz, and Gil put me to work for the intake prosecutor, Ed Ziegler.
I cannot begin to express how much those three men would ultimately influence almost every aspect of who I am today.
When I first met Ed Ziegler, I was scared to death of him. He was in his mid-50s and had recently retired from the Army, where (if I recall correctly) he had been a JAG Officer assigned to the 82nd Airborne. He dressed more sharply than anyone else in the Office, and he had the world's largest set of hearing aids that I had ever seen. He and I couldn't have been more different, but for whatever reason, we hit it off.
Big Money had a fascinating life story. If I recall correctly, he had served in the Navy in Vietnam. He finished his tour of duty and married his wife, Wally. They had two children, Ed and Beth. He became a lawyer and was working in the private sector when one day he passed an Army recruiting booth and signed up. He told me, "I went home and told Wally, the sign said 'Be all you can be,' so we're in the Army now."
The stories he told of his days in the service were fascinating and Ed was a masterful storyteller. He had worked under the supervision of Colin Powell for some time, and he was a tremendous fan of the General. When referring to General Powell, he would shake his head as if in amazement and say, "That was the smartest dude I ever met."
When I first started working at the D.A.'s Office in Brazos, I was one of the shyest and most reserved college juniors on Earth (believe it or not). I was like a bewildered spectator watching stunning (and often tragic) human drama unfold. Observing how Ed handled the cases with a combination of compassion, sarcasm, and jaded wit helped shape the way I have viewed the cases I handled in the years since. The "gallows humor" accompanied by the self-confidence that came from a belief that prosecutors handled the most serious business on Earth gave me the 100% conviction that there was no career choice for me outside of criminal law.
I learned of his passing this evening as I was driving home. I spent all of dinner telling my wife stories about Ed that I can remember as if they happened yesterday. Good Lord, that man was hysterical. He was also an inspiring leader who taught me about the value of loyalty and leadership and the taking of responsibility.
He embodied all that is good about a sense of Duty and Public Service. His years in the military doubtlessly shaped the lives of many who served under him.
He certainly had a profound influence on my life.