Sam C. Pointer, Jr., former federal judge, died on March 15, 2008, at age 73. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Vanderbilt University, Judge Pointer graduated first in his class from the University of Alabama Law School and received an LLM from New York University in 1958.
Judge Pointer was appointed U.S. District Judge in 1970 (at that time the youngest federal judge in the country) and served in that capacity until his retirement from the bench in 2000. For seventeen years he was Chief Judge of the Northern District of Alabama and during his time as federal judge, he presided over the most complex cases in the court system, including the Cast Iron Pipe Antitrust Litigation, the Plywood Antitrust Litigation and the Silicon Gel Breast Implant Litigation (the latter involving 26,000 cases). He chaired the Advisory Committee on Civil Rules and was the principal author of the Manual for Complex Litigation.
It was in the area of civil rights that Judge Pointer made his greatest contribution. In the turbulent seventies, his courageous decisions on school desegregation, employment discrimination and prison conditions recognized the rights and dignity of all our citizens, but caused him to be ostracized to the point of requiring around the clock U.S. Marshal protection for himself and his family. “Sam Pointer stood in the eye of the civil rights storm for more than a decade and never wavered from the oath he took as a judge,” said Warren Lightfoot. “When the roll is called for the heroes of the twentieth century, for the giants who moved this country forward, Sam Pointer’s name will be at the top of the list.” Because of his contributions to this nation, he received numerous awards, including the prestigious Gates Award from the American College of Trial Lawyers.
When Judge Pointer left the bench in 2000 and made known his intention to return to active practice, he rejected all out-of-state offers and narrowed his decision to the twelve top firms in Birmingham, each of which enthusiastically tried to employ him. We were profoundly honored when he chose our firm, and having the benefit of his wise and generous counsel for eight years was of inestimable value to our clients and lawyers. He was a great friend and mentor and will be missed.