When my law partners “assigned” the opportunity to me to write a “legal eulogy” for Euel Screws, Jr., my friend and partner of fifty years, I thought it would, except for the grief of losing him to cancer last November, be easy. Instead, I found it nearly impossible to encapsulate the gist or the spirit of the man I knew for so long. On the surface, Euel was an easy-going, gregarious, charming, good-humored man, a man who made friends easily and enemies only in the rarest of circumstances. And he was every one of those things. But he was also an intensely competitive, highly skilled and highly creative trial lawyer, who successfully conducted trials throughout the State, in both state and federal courts; he was an equally effective appellate advocate.
When I reflect on his background, those attributes can be seen from the very beginning: he was editor-in-chief of The University of Alabama Law Review and a charter member of the Bench and Bar Legal Honor Society. At The University, he was inducted into ODK, the leadership honorary society. His legal grounding beyond law school included both a state and federal court clerkship, under Justice Thomas Lawson of the Alabama Supreme Court and Judge Richard Rives, chief judge of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Characteristically, Euel remained for many years a friend and poker-playing companion to several of the notable judges on the Fifth Circuit, including Judges John Minor Wisdom, John Brown and Walter Gewin. He later joined Judge Rives’ old law firm, where he practiced with John Godbold, Albert Copeland and Truman Hobbs.
Euel was passionately dedicated to his clients and their interests, and that dedication, compassion and empathy was always evident to the juries he so successfully appeared before. From its origins, he was an early pillar of what was then the Alabama Trial Lawyers’ Association, a group founded by Howell Heflin, John Godbold, Francis Hare, Truman Hobbs and Frank Tipler, Sr. to teach trial skills.
The same boundless energy, enthusiasm and optimism he brought to law practice typified his approach to life in general, from his Korean War era Army service as an instructor in night combat and marksmanship, to his life-long love of hunting, competitive sailing (he regularly raced in sailboat regattas, and once captained a sailboat through the Caribbean), fishing and gardening; he was a successful cotton farmer and owned a cotton gin; his hobbies included being a great teller of wonderful stories, classical piano, democratic party politics, and landscaping his beloved Lake Martin house. He was devoted to his bride Dane, to their three children and grandchildren, to his great circle of friends, and to his Episcopal Church. If there is a modern equivalent to the “Renaissance Man” – that is, a man of broad and varied talents, of interests of every kind, of an open, exploring spirit, that would fit Euel Screws.
When he died, his family, knowing the man who was husband, father, grandfather, legal master advocate, scholar, outdoorsman, farmer, boon companion and friend, he was buried in hunting camouflage, with a tin of Skoal, a pint of good Scotch, a fishing fly, and a Christian cross formed of cotton twigs and bolls. For a man full of life and the joy of the good things life offers, I cannot think of anything better.
By: Richard H. Gill, Partner