James Samuel Vecchio, 81, of Grand Prairie, prominent local attorney, pilot and former member of the Texas Legislature, went to be with the Lord on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, after a lengthy illness.
Funeral: 3 p.m. Friday in Moore Funeral Home Chapel. Visitation: The family will receive visitors 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Moore Funeral Home.
Memorials: In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to United Cerebral Palsy of North Texas or the Child Study Foundation in Fort Worth.
James, known as "Jim," "Judge," "Mr. V," "Dad" or "Grandpa" to family and friends, was born Oct. 28, 1931, in Cleveland, Ohio. He was the eldest son of the late Catherine and James Vecchio of Cleveland and spent his childhood there.
Jim served in the United States Army, National Guard, from 1945 to 1952. He was honorably discharged in May 1952. In 1955 he graduated from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and received a bachelor of science in geology. His geology career brought him south to Texas, where he worked as a geologist in southeastern Oklahoma, eastern New Mexico, the Four Corners Rocky Mountain area and southeastern Utah from 1955 through 1956. Jim entered law school at Case Western Reserve School of Law in Cleveland, graduating with a juris doctorate in 1960.
In 1956, Jim met Ronda Crismon, who was working as a speech pathologist in Fort Worth. After a whirlwind courtship, the couple was married April 13, 1957, in Jefferson City, Mo., home of the bride. The couple raised five children together.
Upon completion of law school, Mr. and Mrs. Vecchio, along with their young son, Jay Crismon Vecchio, relocated to Grand Prairie to practice law alongside the late Sam W. Pettigrew. Soon after, Jim opened his own law office on the Arlington-Grand Prairie border. That office is still in operation today.
Jim practiced law throughout Texas and Louisiana at the state and federal levels, including the Texas Supreme Court and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Jim was a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1972 to 1975, representing District 33-J in the Grand Prairie-Dallas area. He was the founder and first chairman of the House Study Group, an organization of legislators and staff who researched and reported in analysis form on the content of countless proposed bills. In 1974 he served as a delegate to the Texas Constitutional Convention, an effort in Austin to draft a new Texas Constitution.
Licensed to practice law for 53 years, one of Jim's legal accomplishments came in in 1970 when he secured the largest medical malpractice jury verdict in Tarrant County history. A champion of the working man, he was always concerned that everyone be treated just and fair. He was a fierce advocate in the courtroom and on the House floor, and tried many cases to juries across Texas. Jim was always up to the task, ready for any challenge and advocated for his clients' individual rights and liberties with unwavering tenacity. His true passion was to stand before a judge and jury and present the facts of his case with intelligence, compassion and precision, unyielding in his pursuit for justice. He loved to tell stories about his courtroom experiences and all of the colorful politicians, lawyers and judges he encountered and befriended through the years.
In 1982, along with his wife, Ronda, Jim founded Arlington Career Institute. He and "Mrs. V" carefully trained and included all members of the immediate family. The school operates today with all six surviving members of the Vecchio family and two of their spouses. The school trains students to be court reporters, paralegals, medical assistants, medical office specialists, administrative assistants and nursing assistants. Jim was at the helm of his law office and school until he became too ill to make the trip to the office every day. Until then, he rarely missed a day of work.
A man of many talents, Jim loved flying and had been a private pilot since 1963. In his Bonanza or King Air, he and his son Tom, also a pilot, flew the family to destinations across the country. Jim utilized his pilot's license to make trial appearances throughout Texas. Many flights were made to Vienna, Mo., where the family had a summer home. There he would fish, boat, swim in the river, observe the bald eagles, enjoy the change of seasons, the view from the "stoop" and spend precious time with his family. Family, fishing and flying brought him immeasurable joy.
"Jim was a wonderful family man," quotes Ronda, his wife of 56 years. "He carefully guided his children and then his grandchildren in areas of law, business and life. He was the consummate patriarch."
An avid historian, Jim spent countless hours studying World War II, the Civil War and just about every facet of American and world history. In his 70s, he traveled abroad to Italy, which was a treasure to this man of proud Italian descent.
He loved animals, especially his dogs that he had through the years. His loyal chocolate Lab, "Chief," remained by his side until the end.
Survivors: His wife, Ronda Crismon Vecchio; son, Jay Vecchio, J.D., and wife, Cindy Vecchio; son, Jon Vecchio and wife, Kim Vecchio; son, Tom Vecchio and wife, Dianna Vecchio; daughter, Catherine Vecchio; daughter, Laura McCaskill, J.D., and her husband, Shawn McCaskill, J.D.; grandsons and granddaughters, Nikolaus Vecchio, Julianna Jones, Nick Bunn and family, Jon Vecchio Jr., Michael Vecchio, Thomas Vecchio, Rachel Vecchio, James Vecchio, David Williams, Ronda Williams, Catherine Williams, Emily Williams, Charles Williams, Joseph McCaskill, Madeleine McCaskill, Caroline McCaskill and Jack McCaskill; great-grandson, Jayden Hannel; sister, Rosemary McAllister and husband, the Honorable Ralph McAllister, J.D., of West Lake, Ohio; brother, John Vecchio, J.D., and wife, Lindel, of Houston; brother, Robert Vecchio, J.D., and wife, Susan, of Las Colinas; brother, Raymond Vecchio, J.D., and wife, Terri, of San Diego, Calif.; and numerous nieces, nephews and friends.