Appalachian School of Law Shootings
       

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Fri, 18 Jan 2002

Texas friends prepare to attend funeral of Virginia law school shooting victim


The Associated Press State & Local Wire

Friends of a professor gunned down at a Virginia law school earlier this week say he was dedicated to his family and job, but also had a humorous side.

“Tom was the class clown. He was a cut-up,” said high school friend Kate Moore of Benbrook. “But he was exactly the person you wanted to be there if you needed something. He was a wonderful person.”

Blackwell and L. Anthony Sutin, a school dean, were slain Wednesday in their offices at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Va. Student Angela Dales, 33, died later at a hospital. Three other students were wounded.

Authorities say Peter Odighizuwa, 43, opened fire with a handgun a day after he was expelled for a second time. He faces three counts of capital murder and other charges.

Blackwell’s funeral was set for 2 p.m. Monday at King of Glory Lutheran Church in Dallas.

Blackwell, born Jan. 13, 1961, graduated from Western Hills High School in 1978 and from the University of Texas at Arlington and the Duke University School of Law.

He practiced business law in Dallas as an associate with Jenkins & Gilchrist and later opened his own law firm.

From 1995-97, Blackwell taught legal writing, analysis and research to first-year students at the Texas Wesleyan University School of Law in Fort Worth. He then went to Chicago Kent Law School and finally to the Appalachian School of Law.

Thomas Trahan, an assistant director of the legal writing program at Wesleyan, first met Blackwell when they practiced law in Dallas. They were also church choir members.

“He was extremely bright,” Trahan said. “He could cut to the heart of a problem better than anyone I knew. He was a very successful lawyer, who gave that up to teach others.

“He dedicated himself to the Appalachian School of Law to bring legal education to a part of the country that traditionally had been economically deprived. He believed in the mission of that school.”

Blackwell and his wife also had a humorous side, Trahan said. They gave their three children - Zebadiah, 14, Jillian, 12, and Ezekiel, 10, - especially long first and middle names so they wouldn’t fit in the allotted spaces on standardized test exams, he said.

Moore recalled that the Blackwells’ first date ended in a car accident that left him in the hospital with several broken bones. His future wife stayed by his bedside throughout his recovery.

“He missed almost half the school year, and he still graduated valedictorian,” Moore said.

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