Friday, October 30, 2020

Schuyler Baker Jr., a central figure at Birmingham's embattled Balch Bingham law firm, dies from cancer

Schuyler Baker Jr.

Schuyler Allen Baker Jr., general counsel and a powerful partner at Birmingham's scandal-plagued Balch Bingham law firm, has died of cancer, according to an obituary today at

Baker perhaps was best known in recent years for vowing to "fight to the death" over what has become known as the Newsome Conspiracy Case. That's the plan where solo attorney Burt Newsome --  allegedly was targeted, falsely arrested, and defamed in a scheme designed to allow Balch and Bingham to swipe his business and ruin his law practice. Former Balch partner Clark Cooper, fired in 2017,  allegedly helped organize that plan. 

Here is how described the Newsome matter:

Balch and Bingham partner Clark A. Cooper, who was abruptly fired on March 3, 2017,  by the embattled law firm, appears to have been the spearhead of the conspiracy that targeted and defamed Burt Newsome, a successful attorney who serviced banks, in an alleged attempt to steal his business.

The defamation occurred after a staged arrest in which Newsome’s mugshot was allegedly distributed via email to several bank executives on a Saturday afternoon by Cooper.

According to Newsome’s appellate brief filed with the Alabama Supreme Court, Cooper looks like a habitual liar who tells half-truths and contradicts his own testimonials.

Baker Jr.'s father, Schuyler A. Baker Sr. was a Balch partner and close aide to Alabama Governor George Wallace, helping advance the governor's segregationist views, including the famous "Stand in the Schoolhouse Door," which was made even more famous by the classic film Forrest Grump.

Baker Sr. also was connected to a Wallace-era highway-funds scandal involving a firm that employed the imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

In Baker Jr.'s final years, Balch was connected -- or appeared to be connected -- to a number of controversies:

* The North Birmingham Superfund bribery scandal, where two of the firm's partners were indicted, and one -- Joel Gilbert -- was convicted;

* The Newsome Conspiracy Case;

* The David Roberson Case, a $75-million lawsuit where Balch attorneys allegedly helped make the former Drummond company executive a fall guy in the Superfund matter;

* The Newsome vehicle crash, a suspicious incident where an employee of Norfolk Southern in Birmingham appeared to intentionally hit Newsome head-on in a large SUV, causing life-threatening injuries. 

Baker Jr.'s position at Balch allowed him to have an enviable lifestyle in perhaps Alabama's premier address. From the obituary:

Schuyler Allen Bradley Baker Jr. of Birmingham passed away on October 28, 2020 after a courageous battle with cancer. Allen was born on September 1, 1947, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and grew up in Birmingham. Allen graduated from Shades Valley High School in 1965, the University of Alabama in 1969, and Cumberland School of Law in 1973. He was a partner for Balch & Bingham for nearly 50 years and served as the firm's general counsel. He married Patty Wilson in 1974 and raised their 4 children in Birmingham. He was a dedicated husband, father, and grandfather, spending his free time with his family at Lake Martin and in Cashiers, NC.  

He was widely known as "Big Al" and loved telling ghost stories and creating fun adventures for his grandchildren. He served as coach, commissioner, and chairman of Mountain Brook Athletics and coached many of his children's sports teams throughout the years. He enjoyed playing golf with his buddies in the Chiselers dogfight at the Country Club of Birmingham. He was a long-time member of Canterbury United Methodist Church and the Crawford Owen Sunday School class. Allen served on the Board of Directors of the St. Vincent's Foundation and was a former president of The Leukemia And Lymphoma Society of Alabama and Northwest Florida.

He was a member of the Monday Morning Quarterback Club and Kiwanis Club of Birmingham. Allen was also a member, president, and king of the Beaux Arts Krewe. He was a fellow for the American College of Trial Lawyers, and served on the American Board of Trial Advocates and on the Advisory Board of the Cumberland School of Law. He also served as a long-time House Corp Chairman of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at the University of Alabama. He is survived by his wife, Patty; four children: Brad Baker (Sally), Will Baker (Susannah), Mike Baker (Laura), Sally Woods (Patrick); 11 grandchildren: Maggie Baker, Allen Baker, Kathryn Baker, Wilson Baker, Eliza Baker, Annie Baker, James Baker, Caroline Baker, Charlie Baker, Schuyler Woods, Walker Woods; his sister, Katie Lasker (Jim) and sisters-in-law, Cindy Baker and Peggy Pate (Bill). He is preceded in death by his parents Schuyler & Kathryn Baker; his brother, Stephen Baker; and infant grandson, William Woods. A limited seating memorial service will be held at 12:00pm on October 31 at Canterbury United Methodist Church. There will be a drive-thru visitation at the church beginning at 1:30 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Canterbury United Methodist Church, 350 Overbrook Road, Birmingham, AL 35213 or the Bruno Cancer Center/St. Vincent's Foundation at or 1130 22nd Street South, Ste 1000, Birmingham, AL 35205.

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