Jack Higgins 3/1/17 03/01/17 4:32:59 PM
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John J. “Jack” Higgins
July 23, 1932 - February 15, 2017
John J. “Jack” Higgins passed away unexpectedly following injuries suffered in a car accident in late January.
Higgins was a 1957 graduate of the Creighton University School of Law. He was licensed to practice law in Nebraska and in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska. He also had an AV Preeminent® Rating from Martindale-Hubbell.
“Jack was one of the more significant members of the trial bar,” said friend and fellow attorney, David L. Herzog.
Early in his career, Higgins was a member of the law firm of Eisenstadt, Lay, Higgins & Miller, which was the top personal injury firm in Omaha for many years. He perfected his practice during his tenure with the firm and beyond, while his partners and colleagues moved onto other branches of legal and government work and the judiciary.
During his almost 50 years in practice, Higgins focused on personal injury, workers’ compensation, railroad litigation, the Federal Employers’ Liability Act and civil rights law. Higgins, and his firm, were leaders in the plaintiff’s trial bar. The firm had a fast-paced and exciting practice that garnered them national attention.
J. William “Bill” Gallup, also an attorney and long-time friend, knew Higgins for years. They were “old-timers because they go back to the days when there weren’t as many lawyers.
“We all officed together downtown. We had morning coffee together every day and settled cases with a handshake,” said Gallup.
They all went to the Brandeis cafeteria for lunch every day. Lawyers sat at one table and judges sat at another table. “We don’t have those characters anymore.”
Being an attorney, said Gallup, “was a calling, not a money-making proposition” to attorneys like Higgins. “It’s not even a profession anymore; it’s strictly a business,” said Gallup.
To Higgins and Gallup, being an attorney was even more than a profession; it was almost a religion. “A judge was a legal priest to them,” and being in court was a “quasi-religious experience” from which “divine guidance” emanated.
In terms of actual religion, Higgins was also a devout Catholic. For many years, Gallup and Higgins officed individually in The Douglas Building on the northeast corner of 19th & Douglas Sts. Gallup vividly recalls looking out his window to see Higgins’ regular walk across the street to St. Mary Magdalene for daily communion. Even at 84-years-old, Higgins maintained this ritual as part of his daily routine, just as he continued to come into the office to do what he loved – practice law.
Besides his love for the law, Higgins “distinguished himself as a very loyal and committed Democrat,” said Herzog. He was always very involved in state politics, supporting candidates as best as he could, in any way he could.
On a lighter note, “Jack was one great bridge player,” said Herzog. He recalled a client once telling him that Higgins was “one of the [most] outstanding bridge players in Omaha.”
Gallup reminisced about a time when he and Higgins would stand on the 6th floor of the Douglas County Courthouse and look at the murals above and down to the floors below, where their contemporaries and the new generation of lawyers would be bustling through the day. He said they would visualize the lawyers and judges that used to be there – the ones that had passed – and think that they were still all there watching from the rafters.
Now, Higgins has joined the ranks of the “old-timers,” the generation of attorneys that forged a unique camaraderie no longer found in the practice of law, watching his friends and other colleagues from the courthouse rafters.
A memorial Mass was held for Higgins on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. His wife, three daughters and stepson survive him. Memorial donations in honor of Jack are suggested to the Nebraska Humane Society, or to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
– By Cassidy V. Chapman