Trip Walton’s battles in the ring, in the courtroom, and now with Parkinson’s
Published in 2018 Mid-South Super Lawyers magazine
By Nancy Henderson on November 8, 2018
By the time he entered first grade, Will O. “Trip” Walton III knew his family’s motto by heart.
“My daddy always told me, ‘We don’t start the fight, we finish it,’” says Walton, 61, a former prosecutor who founded Walton Law Firm in Auburn, Alabama, in 2001. “I would always step in and take up for somebody who was made fun of. I just couldn’t stand that. It riles me up.”
Today, 6-foot-3-inch, 230-pound Walton is widely known as “The Fighter” for his relentless pursuit of justice, his boxing record and his aggressive courtroom demeanor.
Law is in his blood, but, unlike his real estate attorney dad and his “union-buster” attorney uncle, Walton was drawn to plaintiff’s work. “I got caught up in the personal injury field, taking up for those who were basically bullied.”
At Auburn University, a classmate urged him to try his hand at boxing, and before long Walton—whose nickname stems from the fact that he is the third, or “triple,” William O. in his family—was working out at a seedy gym in inner-city Columbus, Georgia, four or five days a week. He continued to box as a University of Alabama School of Law student and wound up with a 20-1 record and 18 first-round knockouts. Among his amateur wins: the Auburn University “A” Club Heavyweight Championship in 1978, the Alabama AAU Open-Class Heavyweight Championship in 1981, and the Alabama Golden Gloves Heavyweight Championship in 1982.
“The actual rush that I got before getting in the ring to go one-on-one with somebody was unbelievably great,” he adds. “It was the most exciting, horrific feeling I’ve ever felt—sort of like waiting for the jury to come out with a verdict with either money or no money, or guilty or not guilty.”
As Walton’s pugilistic prowess grew, his legal studies took a hit, and eventually his C-minus average got him booted out of school. He was already negotiating a professional sports contract when he realized that, in the long run, law was a more sustainable choice. So he reapplied, promised to give up boxing, and earned only As and Bs from then on.
Walton’s practice now focuses on traumatic brain injury, wrongful death, automobile and tractor-trailer accidents, and DUI criminal cases. The connection between boxing and trial work is undeniable, he says. “You train hard, you work hard. You go to the courtroom, you get in the ring. You have a fight. You’ve got a jury and judges, you have a referee and a judge. It’s very similar. It’s a knockdown, drag-out.”
Of his numerous high-stakes victories, he is most proud of an $8 million brain injury settlement and a $7 million favorable verdict in a spine injury case. In both, the plaintiffs suffered serious injuries in car crashes involving large commercial trucks. “At one time, we thought they would be dead,” he says. “At another time, we thought they would never walk. At another time, we thought they would never eat, never chew, never use their hands. Both of them are very viable individuals these days. They have these things because of what we supplied through the lawsuits. Helping people that are completely devastated through a tough time is probably the highlight of my career.”
Walton is now facing his own tough time. A few years ago, he noticed a tremor in his right hand, and in 2017 he was diagnosed with early stage Parkinson’s. Walking out of UAB Hospital after hearing the news, he says, he observed patients coming and going, some in wheelchairs, others wearing arm and leg casts. “And I said, ‘There are a lot of folks that got diagnosed in here today with a lot worse than I got. So what’s your problem?’”
In court, Walton sometimes hides his trembling hand under his leg so it won’t distract, but for the most part he openly talks about it and the fact that the 250 to 300 concussions he sustained through years of playing football, water skiing and boxing probably contributed to his condition. He is determined to duke it out with the symptoms, through ultra-healthy eating, high doses of vitamins and minerals, and daily workouts that include pummeling those familiar boxing bags.
“It’s up to the person to take it over, sort of like boxing, sort of like being a trial lawyer,” he says. “You’ve got to fight. You can lay down or get up and get on with it.”
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