'Pillars' to be honored

'Pillars' to be honored

Four men with 176 years of combined legal experience have been named the 2015 Pillars of the Bar by the Champaign County Bar Association.

Steve Beckett of Urbana, and Paul Hendren, Ward McDonald and Greg Townsend, all of Champaign, will be honored May 6 at the annual Law Day Dinner at the Champaign Country Club.

In 2006, the local bar association began naming as "pillars" lawyers who had distinguished themselves in terms of service to their profession and their community throughout their careers.

John Gadau, bar association president and a former pillar, said there are no set criteria on how often or how many pillars are named. A group of at-large local bar members and former pillars makes the selections.

The induction of this fifth class of pillars brings to 25 the number of Champaign County attorneys honored.

The honorees:

J. Steven "Steve" Beckett

Beckett, 66, currently serves as director of the trial advocacy program at the University of Illinois College of Law, the same school he graduated from in 1973.

Since 1987, he's taught a variety of courses including skills training in trial advocacy, evidence, white collar crime, and law and the movies.

A native of Urbana, Beckett has been licensed since 1973 and is currently "of counsel" to the Urbana firm of Beckett & Webber, P.C., which he founded in 1988.

The well-regarded defense attorney with a focus in criminal and civil litigation and appeals has appeared in state and federal trial and appellate courts all over the Midwest and twice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

He was the Criminal Justice Act panel representative for the central district of Illinois from 2005 to '14 and has participated in yearly symposia on topics of interest to criminal lawyers. He is the also the reporter for the 7th Circuit Pattern Criminal Jury Instruction Committee.

Beckett has published many articles in law journals on a variety of criminal, civil and constitutional law subjects, written or edited books on deposition practice, and has made many presentations on those subjects to law students and at state and national attorney organizations. He's also the author of Illinois Criminal Law and Procedure, Statutes, Cases and Commentary, a text used in criminal justice courses in Illinois community colleges.

Beckett has received awards from the Illinois Public Defenders Association, the Champaign County American Civil Liberties Union, and the East Central Illinois Women's Attorney's Association.

In 2012, he was honored by the Champaign-Urbana Schools Foundation with the Urbana High School distinguished alumni award. In 2013 he received the Defender of the Innocent Award from the Illinois Innocence Project.

A Democrat now living in rural Urbana, Beckett served on the Champaign County Board from 2000 to '10. During his tenure he served as facilities committee chair during the construction of the addition to the downtown Urbana courthouse and as vice chair of the board.

He was a co-sponsor of a resolution to establish a commission to address redistricting after the 2010 U.S. Census.

Steve's wife, Barbara, is a retired elementary school teacher. They have been married 45 years and have two sons, Chad and Don, and four grandsons.

Paul Carter Hendren

Hendren, 72, received his undergraduate degree from the UI and was also commissioned as an Army ROTC lieutenant in 1964.

He attended law school at the UI, graduating in 1967. While there, he served as a member and assistant editor of the law school's review, The Law Forum. He was also a member of the Order of the Coif scholastic honorary.

He was commissioned as a captain in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps, serving from 1968 to '72. He served on active duty in Virginia, Kentucky, California and the Republic of Vietnam (1969-70).

After finishing his military service in 1972, Hendren joined the Champaign Law firm of Jo C. Williamson and Harold A. Miller, which later became Williamson, Miller & Hendren. After Mr. Williamson's death in 1979, Miller and Hendren continued their practice until 1986, when Miller's son, Marc R. Miller, joined the firm. Their three-man practice continued until Harold Miller's death in 2008.

Hendren and Marc Miller continue their practices, concentrating in estate planning and administration, municipal law, real estate and business law. Hendren serves as legal counsel to several area towns and villages.

Hendren has served as president of the Champaign County Bar Association and on various state and county bar committees.

Since the 1980s, he has served on the hearing board of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, a position he still holds. The ARDC administers discipline to attorneys in Illinois under the direction of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Paul and his wife, Suzanne, were married in 1965. They have two children, Matthew and Anne, and one grandson.

John G. "Greg" Townsend

Townsend, 67, of Champaign, retired from the Champaign County bench in 2004 after having spent much of his legal career as a judge.

After just four years as a licensed attorney engaged in general practice in Champaign, Townsend was appointed an associate judge in 1979 in Champaign County.

He was elected a circuit judge in 1990. His last seven years on the bench he served as the county's presiding judge, taking care of administrative matters while hearing cases.

Townsend taught fellow judges criminal and civil trial practice for many years as well as trial advocacy to law students at his alma mater, the University of Illinois.

As a member of the Illinois Judges Association, Townsend served as co-chairman of a summit of judges and lawyers seeking solutions to incivility and the erosion of professionalism among members of the bench and bar.

As he worked in the legal arena, Townsend was also on both active and reserve duty in the U.S. Army for more than 33 years.

He spent four years in active duty from 1966 to '70 in the U.S. Army and 30 years in the U.S. Army Reserve after that, retiring in 2000 at the rank of brigadier general. In 2008, he was inducted into the Army Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame at Fort Sill, Okla.

After his 2004 retirement from the bench, Townsend worked as a civilian official for both the Department of State and the Department of Defense in the Mideast, drawing on his years of military experience in the special operations and intelligence areas.

In 2007, he was among those recognized by the federal inspectors general community for Southwest Asia service. He has also received the Department of Defense Global War on Terrorism Civilian Service medal.

Townsend received his undergraduate degree from the College of Emporia, in Emporia, Kan.

He and his wife, Susan, have worked in support of overseas missionaries of their church.

They have two children, Katie and John.

Ward F. McDonald

McDonald, 73, of Mahomet, has been a licensed attorney for 46 years and is currently with the Champaign law firm of Meyer Capel, where he concentrates in real estate acquisitions and finance.

McDonald received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Illinois. He attended the University of Southern California for graduate school but did not receive his master's degree.

He is a charter member of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers and the Illinois Bar Foundation and a life fellow of the American Bar Foundation. McDonald has been active in the Illinois State and American Bar Associations and has served as chairman of the Illinois State Bar Association's Real Estate Law Section Council.

He has taught real estate finance and law at the University of Illinois in both the business and law colleges for 25 years. The Ward F. McDonald Scholarship is awarded each spring to the outstanding real estate law student at the UI College of Law.

McDonald is director emeritus of Attorneys' Title Guaranty Fund, Inc., where he served on the board of directors for 30 years, and another 13 years as president and CEO of the company.

In the community, McDonald has been president of the Arrowhead Council for the Boy Scouts of America, a member of the Mahomet-Seymour school board, and a co-founder of the Land Conservation Foundation. He also served on the board of directors for Prairie Rivers Network.

An avid hiker, biker and tennis player, McDonald and his wife, Diana, a retired English instructor from Parkland College, are most proud of their campaign to reforest 180 acres of land near Mahomet. The couple has planted 50,000 trees as part of that effort.

They have three sons, Aron, Joel and Brent, and four grandchildren.

Previous honorees

This is the fifth class of pillars to be inducted. Prior groups were:

— 2006: Stanley Balbach, Sam Erwin, French Fraker, Fred Green, Lawrence "Bud" Hatch, Stuart Mamer, Darius Phebus and Richard Thies.

— 2009 George Miller, J. Michael O'Byrne, Charles Palmer, and John Phipps.

— 2011: Roger Haughey, Donald Tennant, Harold Jensen and George Bryan.

— 2013: Tom Harrington, Lott Thomas, James W. Evans, John Gadau and Carl Webber.

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