Famed trial lawyer Edward Bennett Williams, who defended clients ranging from Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa to Sen. Joseph McCarthy during a career that spanned three decades, died of cancer Saturday. He was 68.
Williams, owner of baseball's Baltimore Orioles and former president and part owner of pro football's Washington Redskins, died at about 6:15 p.m. at Georgetown University Hospital, where he was admitted Wednesday, hospital spokeswoman Anne Klass said.Vincent Fuller, a partner at Williams' Washington law firm Williams & Connolly, said members of Williams' family were with him at the hospital when he died.
"He was one of a kind, a legend in his own day," Fuller said. "He's been fighting this disease. He fought it as hard as he could."
Fuller said he first met Williams 32 years ago at Georgetown University while Fuller was a law student and Williams was his criminal law professor.
"He was a teacher to us all," Fuller said.
As famous as the fictional television attorney Perry Mason, Williams was a master of the courtroom who used charm and confidence to woo juries and wage legal war for his clients.
Adroit, brainy, handsome and industrious, Williams gained national success as a trial lawyer in his early 30s. Despite repeated bouts of cancer in later years, he remained a tireless advocate for the accused throughout his life.
His clients were as colorful and controversial as Williams himself, ranging from conservatives to communists, mobsters to madames.
The list included Hoffa, McCarthy, Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr., and Frank Costello, mogul of the underworld.
Although the public often associated him with the sometimes villainous folk he represented, Williams was a firm believer that any accused person is entitled to the best defense.
"The lawyer," he wrote in the book "One Man's Freedom," "is neither expected nor qualified to make a moral judgment on the person seeking his help."
For Williams' clients, the best defense was often expensive. He commanded huge fees from those who could afford them, but often pointed out that his firm took on the causes of the penniless for free.
He invested some of the proceeds of his labor in professional sports, buying an interest in the Redskins in the early 1960s and later fulfilling a childhood dream by owning the Orioles.