Five Champaign County lawyers who all graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law and who have more than 250 collective years of legal experience are being recognized as the latest "Pillars of the Bar."
The five men chosen this year join a "Who's Who" of Champaign County attorneys selected by their peers in the Champaign County Bar as having made significant contributions to the legal profession.
The group will be honored at the Law Day dinner at the Champaign Country Club on May 1. Charles Palmer, chosen as a pillar in 2009, will present the awards.
— Tom Harrington, 81, who died in August, was a lawyer for 57 years, working almost all those years in a Champaign firm founded by his father.
Raised in Champaign, Mr. Harrington graduated from the UI College of Law in 1955. After a stint as Champaign County public defender from 1957 to 1959, he returned to the family firm. Over his years there, he worked with his brother Kenny, and later his son, Dan, and grandsons Patrick and Andrew, to create a four-generation succession in the Champaign office now known as Harrington and Tock.
A onetime high school and college athlete who also became a successful businessman, Mr. Harrington was involved in a variety of major local commercial and charitable endeavors.
He served on the board of the Carle Foundation, was the lead fundraiser in the effort to build the High School of St. Thomas More and was honored with the Honorary Varsity "I" Man for his support of UI athletics.
He was a founding partner of Premium Brands Distributors, but his greatest local impact may have been as a developer of residential subdivisions in south and southwest Champaign.
Mr. Harrington was named a Knight of St. Gregory by the Vatican for his work with the High School of St. Thomas More and other charitable endeavors.
He was married for 58 years to his wife, Andrea. They had four sons and 14 grandchildren.
— Lott Thomas, 78, of Champaign, has practiced with the downtown Champaign firm that bears his name — Thomas, Mamer & Haughey — for 51 years.
A Champaign native, Thomas served in the Air Force after graduating from DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. He graduated from the UI College of Law in 1962 and worked with his father, James G. Thomas, for the first 25 years of his career. For the past 15 years, he has practiced with his daughter, Melissa Thomas.
Thomas has served on the UI College of Law Board of Visitors and was chosen as a distinguished alumnus in 2006. He is past president of the Champaign County Bar Association and has been chair of several Illinois State Bar Association committees.
Outside of work, Thomas has served as president of the Champaign County United Way, Champaign Rotary Club, Arrowhead Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Champaign Public Library Board of Trustees, Champaign Public Library Foundation, and the Champaign County Design and Conservation Foundation.
He and his wife, SuAnn, have three children and six grandchildren.
— James W. Evans, 75, of Champaign, graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law in 1962 and began his legal career on the public payroll.
Between 1962 and 1975, the Wheaton native served as an assistant state's attorney in Champaign County, assistant city attorney for the city of Champaign and as an instructor at the Police Training Institute and Parkland College. Since 1975, he's been the Mahomet village attorney.
In 1975, Evans formed a partnership with John T. Phipps which continued until 1982 when he formed a partnership with Kurt Froehlich.
This partnership was subsequently joined by Kenneth Beth in 1992 and Joseph Chamley in 2001 and is now known as Evans, Froehlich, Beth & Chamley. Mark Palmer is also associated with the downtown Champaign firm.
Evans has been active in both local and state bar association activities, having served on the board of governors of the Champaign County Bar Association and as president in 1969. He also served as a delegate to the ISBA Assembly between 1978 and 1982 and was a charter fellow of the Illinois Bar Foundation.
Evans specializes in representing financial institutions where he focuses on loan documentation and creditor's rights.
He has written or co-authored several books and publications on commercial lending, including some for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education, the Bank Administration Institute and the Illinois Bankers Association.
He has lectured for banking organizations in more than 24 states and regularly conducts in-house training programs for financial institutions.
Evans is married and has three children.
— John Gadau, 70, of Champaign, has been practicing in Champaign since his admission to the bar in 1967. The UI College of Law graduate still litigates, with an emphasis on personal injury and criminal defense work.
Born in Olney, Gadau grew up in Edwards County and in Evansville, Ind.
He has tried cases in civil and criminal court in both the state and federal systems.
A co-founder of slow pitch softball locally, Gadau formed the first Champaign County Bar Association team and still plays as an outfielder and catcher. He was also a member of the board of directors of the Champaign County Colts, a Central Illinois College League team.
He has served 13 years as a member of the board of the Champaign County Bar Association and eight years as its president.
He and his wife, Sherrie, have two children and four grandchildren.
— Carl Webber, 68, of Champaign, grew up in Urbana and after graduating from Northwestern University, served in the Navy before going to law school at the UI.
In 1971, he joined the family law firm of Webber & Thies in Urbana as a clerk and started practicing law there in 1973. He remains there as shareholder and president. His practice emphasizes senior housing, commercial transactions and international conflicts of law.
Webber served on the UI Law School Board of Visitors for 31 years, was a member of the UI Library Friends, and was an adjunct professor in the UI School of Business. He is active with the Law School's LLM Global Fellows Program.
He was also president of the Champaign County Bar Association, has been a member of several bar-related organizations, and has served in several positions with the Illinois State Bar Association.
Outside of the legal profession, he was chair of the Urbana Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Urbana Promotion Committee, two area Boy Scout Councils and Urbana's Art in the Park. He has also served on the boards of several civic organizations including the Developmental Services Center.
Between him and his wife, Betty, they have five children and four granddaughters.
This is the fourth class of pillars to be inducted. The previous class inducted, in 2011, included Roger Haughey, Donald Tennant, Harold Jensen and George Bryan.
This is the fourth 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.