This remembrance of our late Partner Richard Ogle was penned by Christian & Small Partner Dan Sparks and appears in the March 2017 edition of the Birmingham Bar Association’s quarterly magazine, The Birmingham Bar Bulletin.
Richard Ogle departed this earth on Oct. 27, 2016, after a long fight with pulmonary fibrosis. To call his fight courageous would be to trivialize it. His fight was more than that. Richard accepted no sympathy and complained to no one. Through his long illness Richard was far more concerned with those who worried about him than he was with his own health. “Inspirational” is often overused, but not when referring to Richard Ogle.
Richard was born on March 11, 1942, in Birmingham. He attended Ramsay High School in Birmingham. Richard’s work ethic was forged early and was well known. His first job was at 9 years old, shoveling coal into the furnace of an apartment building. He worked construction jobs while in high school while still managing to play on the school’s football and baseball teams. Richard was voted “Friendliest” by his Senior Class, a superlative that certainly fit him.
Richard later attended the University of Alabama, where he was a member of ODK, and then graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law. His legal career began in 1968, and he practiced law in Birmingham for almost 50 years.
On May 1, 2008, Richard moved his practice to and joined us at Christian & Small LLP. He had an immediate impact, not only in the firm’s profitability, but it its attitude. Richard was never afraid of a good fight and his attitude was infectious. Richard had no fear of any case, any client, any fact situation, any opposing counsel or any judge. His bravado was far from false. Richard was a warrior and a genuine advocate for his clients. Everyone knew it. Some lawyers feared him, some loved him, but all of them respected him. The manner and passion with which we practice law at Christian & Small was forever impacted by Richard Ogle.
Richard had a sharp mind and a quick tongue. I am fond of the story about Richard beginning a complicated jury trial before a former Federal District Judge in Birmingham known for exerting excessive control over the goings-on in his courtroom. Richard was told by the judge he would have only 10 minutes to do his opening statement to the jury. Richard protested loudly that he could not possibly present his opening statement in such a complicated case in only 10 minutes. He pleaded for more time, all to no avail. The trial began with Richard presenting his opening remarks to the jury.
Precisely at the 10-minute mark, and mid-sentence, Richard was interrupted by the judge and unceremoniously told to sit down, as his time was up. The case then proceeded, as others do, with examination of witnesses and the taking of evidence from both sides. At the conclusion of the evidence the judge called a side-bar conference with all of the lawyers. “Mr. Ogle” he said. “You are the plaintiff, how long do you need for closing argument.” “Well, first I’ll need time to finish my opening statement” Richard zinged back. Richard naturally got the full time for closing that he asked for.
Richard had much to offer his clients and partners and was doing so up until his very final months. He was working almost to his final breath, having been in the office only a few days before his last.
As recently as January 2016, Richard began a trial of an arbitration alongside two other of our Christian & Small partners. Richard was lead counsel and strategist. On the fourth day of the trial Richard became too ill to continue, an exacerbation of the terminal illness, which led to his hospitalization. Nevertheless, Richard mandated that he be reported to daily and consulted on strategy throughout the remaining eight days of the trial. (It is fitting that Richard’s client fully prevailed in this case which was to become a two-week trial, and Richard’s final one).
Richard’s compulsion to always do the right thing was evident in his mentoring to many younger lawyers, including those in our firm. Many a Christian & Small lawyer has stood in Richard’s doorway seeking advice – me included – and his final case was no exception.
Richard’s desire to mentor young people was further evidenced by his work with his college fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha, of which he was chapter president at the University of Alabama, and later served as its National President for two years. Richard established and endowed a scholarship for young men of the Gamma Alpha Chapter of PKA who exhibited character, leadership and excellence in academics. Richard was proud that through his work with PKA he impacted the lives numerous young men.
Richard long ago ceased actually attending the football games of his beloved Alabama Crimson Tide. Instead Richard had a habit of driving down to the PKA house in Tuscaloosa a few hours before each Alabama home game. He would see and greet friends, old and new, and then leave exactly one hour before kickoff to be home in front of his television precisely at kickoff. “There is no better seat,” he always told me. Every time he said it, I smiled.
Richard was active in Bar-related matters and causes, having served as President of the Birmingham Bar Association in 1990 and President of the Young Lawyers Section of the Birmingham Bar Association as well. He further found time to serve on the Boards of Directors for the Alabama Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on the Alabama Rules of Evidence, the American Judicature Society, and the University of Alabama Law School Foundation. Richard was recognized numerous times by the prestigious publication Best Lawyers in America.
Richard was interested in the betterment of our greater Birmingham community. He helped found the Birmingham Tip-Off Club and served as its first President. He was an attendee of Mountain Brook Community Church, and he served as a Board Member of the YMCA.
Richard was 74 years old when he left us, and he will be sorely missed – by his family, his numerous friends, by his trusting clients, and by our law firm.
Richard is survived by his wife Rhonda Ogle, his two daughters Brook Ogle and Jessica Ogle Tate, and of course, by everyone in his Christian & Small family.