J WILLIAM "BILL" CONGER

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March 6, 1945 - January 1, 2013 OKLAHOMA CITY J. William "Bill" Conger passed away January 1, 2013. Bill was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, on March 6, 1945. Bill, the son of George and Lil Conger, moved with his family to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, in the summer of 1961. There he met his high school sweetheart, the love of his life, and his wife of 45 years, Sherry Martin. Together they raised three beautiful daughters, Christen, Jennifer, and Erin. Bill graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1967 with a degree in history. He attended law school at Louisiana State University for one year and then transferred to the University of Oklahoma College of Law to complete his juris doctor in 1971. His full and joyful life as a lawyer was remarkable for its breadth and variety and the quality of his achievements. He practiced law for over 35 years and served as a lawyer in many settings. He began his practice with Woods Corporation, an Oklahoma City-based company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and served as general counsel. He later opened his own law office and worked as a solo practitioner in a general civil litigation practice. Then, with friends Larry Hartzog and Len Cason, Bill founded the Oklahoma City firm of Hartzog Conger & Cason, later becoming Hartzog Conger Cason & Neville with the addition of Drew Neville and other attorneys who joined the firm in 1999. He practiced primarily in the area of business litigation, and his clients' interests took him all over the world. He tried cases at the International Tribunal at The Hague in the Netherlands and in state and federal courthouses throughout Oklahoma and across the country. He served as liaison counsel for companies in environmental superfund cases and represented the accounting firm KPMG in the complex litigation arising out of Penn Square Bank's collapse. Whether representing a child in need of help or an international accounting firm, Bill approached his work with competence, civility and compassion. He loved being in a courtroom more than anything and relished working with judges and juries to resolve cases in litigation. Throughout his life, Bill served the legal profession and his community. He was a member of the American Bar Association, Federal Bar Association, Oklahoma Bar Association and Oklahoma County Bar Association. He served as President of the 15,000 member Oklahoma Bar Association in 2008 and served on its Board of Governors from 2003-2009. During his tenure, he led the organization through a major renovation of the Oklahoma Bar Center. He was the recipient of the prestigious John E. Shipp Award for Ethics and received the President's Award for Outstanding Service to the Oklahoma Bar Association in 2004. He also served as an appointed member of the Access to Justice Commission since 2006, chaired by former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson. In the year 2000, he served as President of the Oklahoma County Bar Association, and he was one of the founding members and a master emeritus of the William J. Holloway, Jr., American Inn of Court. Over the years, he served on many committees, projects and task forces, lending his leadership talents to numerous important initiatives of the state and local bar associations. He served as a trustee and was a Benefactor Fellow of the Oklahoma Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the Oklahoma Bar Foundation providing financial support to charitable organizations throughout Oklahoma. Bill also served as President of the Board of Trustees of Heritage Hall School and was a former director of the Speck Home for Boys and of the YMCA Youth & Government Program. In recognition of his accomplishments as a trial lawyer, Bill was elected as a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He was also an elected Oklahoma Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and was a member of the American Law Institute. He received the International Academy of Trial Lawyers commendation award. In 2003, Bill became of counsel to the law firm and began a new era of his career at Oklahoma City University where he served as the University's General Counsel and as Distinguished Lecturer at the School of Law. He taught courses in trial practice, introduction to legal practice, civil procedure and complex litigation and coached national trial competition teams. In 2005, the law students selected him as Professor of the Year by vote of the student body. He was a superb teacher, focusing not only on doctrine and theory, but also on how to be a powerful storyteller, how to analyze complex ethical dilemmas and how to deal with difficult personal challenges in the practice of law. He became the mentor-in-residence for hundreds of law students who sought his advice and counsel on matters important to their professional and personal lives. Every member of the OCU campus was considered family to Bill. Bill was a proponent of work-life balance and helped his students and his colleagues on the faculty and staff of the University find balance, perspective and joy in their daily lives. In the past year, Bill was the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Oklahoma City University and was named General Counsel Emeritus. In recognition of his achievements, he also received the School of Law's 2012 Marian P. Opala Lifetime Achievement in Law Award. In November, the Oklahoma City University School of Law announced plans to name the courtroom in the new law school downtown campus the J. William Conger Courtroom, where Bill's legacy of distinguished service to his profession and to his community will inspire others for generations to come. Bill was preceded in death by his parents, George and Lil Conger. Bill is survived by his wife, Sherry; his daughter, Christen Julia Conger; daughter, Jennifer Conger Bentley and husband Steven; daughter, Erin Conger Welch and husband Brian; grandchildren, Parker and Julianne Bentley and Vivian Welch, who affectionately knew him as Dad-O; sister, Julia Shoup and husband Andy; twin sister, Betty Cannon and husband Arnold; brother, George Robert Conger and wife Johnisue; brother-in-law, Scott Martin and his children, David, Christopher and Julie; and his beloved dog, Max. Bill's memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Monday, January 7, 2013, at the Bishop W. Angie Smith Chapel on the Oklahoma City University Campus. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions in Bill's honor be made to the Oklahoma City University School of Law Building Project for the J. William Conger Courtroom or to the School of Law's general scholarship fund, 2501 N Blackwelder, OKC, OK 73106.

Published in The Oklahoman from Jan. 5 to Jan. 6, 2013
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