April 30, 2015 - Issue: Vol. 161, No. 64 — Daily Edition114th Congress (2015 - 2016) - 1st Session
REMEMBERING REX CARR; Congressional Record Vol. 161, No. 64
(Senate - April 30, 2015)
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[Pages S2559-S2560] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] REMEMBERING REX CARR Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I want to pay my respects to a man who championed the underdogs of Metro East, IL. Rex Carr passed away on Monday at the age of 88. For over one-half century, people who were out of luck or injured could call on Rex Carr to be their champion. He did it with a style and grace that made him a legend in the community. Rex grew up in my hometown of East St. Louis. He was the second youngest of five boys. His mother was a teacher and father was a firefighter with the Illinois Central Railroad. His family could not afford much and often had to move when they could not pay the rent. When Rex graduated from East St. Louis High School, he joined the Navy and served in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Rex would go on to attend college and law school at the University of Illinois. During summers, he worked filling freight cars with ice and hitched a ride back and forth between home and the University of Illinois. In 1949, Rex finished law school and started practicing in East St. Louis. He was so poor that his first office was in the chambers of a friendly judge, where he could only work when the judge was busy in court. He earned $500 his first year of practice. But he would keep an office in East St. Louis for the rest of his life. In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mocking Bird, Atticus Finch defined courage, ``When you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. [[Page S2560]] You rarely win, but sometimes you do.'' Rex did not win all his cases, but he won quite a few and always tried to see things to their end. Rex had that courage that Atticus Finch described. During the 1960s and 1970s, Rex earned a reputation as a civil rights and labor attorney. He fiercely fought for equal rights for African Americans and represented teachers in East St. Louis. By the end of the 1970s, Rex's practice had turned toward personal injury, and he became a legend. He won national acclaim as the best- prepared lawyer in Metro East and even made it into the Guinness Book of Records for three categories: the longest civil jury trial; the largest personal injury verdict at the time; and the largest libel verdict. The longest trial also was one of his proudest moments of his career. A tanker car carrying wood preservative with a dioxin contaminant spilled in Sturgeon, MO, injuring many of the town's residents. He represented 65 of them. All but one of the parties settled with the residents. Chemical giant Monsanto, manufacturer of the dioxin, refused, and Rex took them to court. Rex fought for three and a half years in the case. There were 182 witnesses, 6,000 separate exhibits, and over 100,000 pages in transcript. Rex's skill was on full display. He cross-examined a witness for 6 months and then another witness for 5 months. The jury awarded the plaintiffs $16 million. An appeals court would disappoint him and the residents by reducing the award to $1 million. Rex went on to win many cases and mentor many young lawyers in Metro East. His career was about holding corporations responsible and ensuring his clients' rights. Rex's cross-examinations were the stuff of folklore. At 88 years old, he was still working out of his Missouri Avenue office in East St. Louis. It's where he was from, and he wanted people to be able to come to him for help. Rex was a giant in Metro East. My thoughts and prayers go out to his four sons, Rex G. Carr of Vermont, Bruce Carr of Valparaiso, IN, Eric Reeve of Mack's Creek, MO, and Glenn Carr of Columbia, IL; a daughter, Kathryn Marie Wheeler of Los Angeles, CA; 16 grandchildren; and 20 great-grandchildren. ____________________