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In Memoriam: OBA 2008 President J. William “Bill” Conger

Bill Conger and Dean Valerie CouchThe Oklahoma Bar Association and Oklahoma City University School of Law has lost a great teacher, friend and colleague. J. William Conger died at his home on New Year’s Day. He was 67 years old. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, at the Bishop W. Angie Smith Chapel on the OCU campus.

Bill, as he was known, had a distinguished legal career spanning more than 40 years. He practiced in a variety of capacities before he and friend Larry Hartzog and Len Cason founded the Oklahoma City firm of Hartzog Conger & Cason, later becoming Hartzog Conger Cason & Neville. He practiced primarily in the area of business litigation, and his clients’ interests took him all over the world.

In 2003 he became of counsel for the firm and began teaching at the law school where he was a beloved instructor and mentor. Bill taught trial practice, introduction to legal practice, civil procedure and complex litigation and was an inspiration to the future lawyers he enjoyed teaching. He was so cherished by OCU students that in 2005 they voted him “professor of the year.”

“Bill was a force, not only for his clients whom he represented with enthusiasm and passion, but also for the hundreds of students who were fortunate to learn the values of the legal professional from his perspective,” said OCU School of Law Dean Valerie K. Couch. “He was a longtime and very dear friend of mine, and there are no words to describe his loss to me personally or to our law school that he loved. Bill touched people, and he will be deeply missed.”

At the OCU School of Law awards gala in November, Bill received the Justice Marian P. Opala Award for lifetime achievement in law. The award bearing Justice Opala’s name is given to an individual deserving accolades for their excellence and overall contributions to the legal community. It was also announced at the awards gala that the courtroom at the new law school downtown campus will be named in his honor. The announcement was a surprise to Bill, and he was extremely touched by the recognition.

In addition to being the distinguished lecturer in law at the law school, Bill was also the general counsel emeritus for the university, having served as the general counsel for eight years. Bill said recently that the best years of his life have been at Oklahoma City University School of Law.

Among his numerous professional accolades, Bill was a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, master emeritus and past president of the William J. Holloway Jr. American Inn of Court, and received the International Academy of Trial Lawyers Commendation Award in 2005. Bill served as the Oklahoma Bar Association president in 2008 and has received the John E. Shipp Award for ethics and the OBA President’s Award for outstanding service to the bar.

Some of his other legal activities include serving as a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and a Trustee and Benefactor Fellow of the Oklahoma Bar Foundation. He also served as the Oklahoma County Bar Association president and spent two terms as an OCBA director.

He is survived by his wife, Sherry, their three daughters, Christen Conger, Jennifer Bentley and Erin Welch, and two grandchildren, Parker and Julianne Bentley.