John was a modern day “David” in his courtroom battles with “Goliath”.
John M. O’Quinn established The John M. O’Quinn Foundation in 1986. With his death in 2009, Mr. O’Quinn willed his entire estate to The Foundation. As of December 31, 2023, the Foundation has awarded more than $186 million in grants. Most of the funds have been given within the state of Texas with a special emphasis on Houston, Mr. O’Quinn’s home since his youth. Although The Foundation supports a wide variety of charitable activities, in honoring Mr. O’Quinn’s legacy, the Board of Trustees focuses on Houston and its surrounding areas for conservation, education, healthcare, and programs benefitting underprivileged youth.
John M. O’Quinn was a Texas trial lawyer and founding partner of The O’Quinn Law Firm. Mr. O’Quinn shared his success through philanthropy and gave generously to many charitable causes, such as Texas Children’s Hospital, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas Heart Institute, University of Houston, The Children’s Assessment Center, and The Monarch School. He established The John M. O’Quinn Foundation in 1986, which focuses on helping children, healthcare and conservation.
Born to Jean Wilkes and Leonard O’Quinn, John Maurice O’Quinn spent his early years in Baton Rouge, LA. The family moved to Houston when Mr. O’Quinn was a toddler, but his mother left the family when he was four years old and never returned. O’Quinn was raised in a post-war era bungalow in Houston’s West University Place and worked in his father’s car garage. He was a top student at Houston’s Lamar High School, showing an aptitude in math and science. He began college at Rice University, majoring in engineering; however, after being placed on academic probation for “three of the six semesters there”, he spoke with a vocational counselor who recommended career testing to determine the best bet for his future. O’Quinn reflected, “After the test, I was told I was a people person. That I liked to help people, fight for beliefs, and punish bullies. They said I should be a trial lawyer.”
O’Quinn enrolled that fall in the University of Houston Law Center, where he served as editor of the Houston Law Review and won a state moot court championship. He graduated first in his class in 1967. O’Quinn was the first UH Law School graduate to be hired by the law firm of Baker Botts. In 1999, the playing field at Robertson Stadium, now TCEDU Stadium, was named John O’Quinn Field in honor of O’Quinn’s generosity and support of the stadium renovations.
O’Quinn quickly made his name handling plaintiff’s litigation. Among his biggest wins were a $1 billion verdict in 2006 against Wyeth Laboratory for its diet drug, fen-phen, a $17.3 billion tobacco settlement for the state of Texas, and a $100 million verdict against Down Corning for silicone breast implants.
In total, O’Quinn is estimated to have won through settlement and/or verdicts, more than $21 billion for his clients.