Roderick Beddow Lifetime Award


Roderick Beddow, Sr. (1889-1978) was born in Tennessee. His father, Charles Peter Beddow, a distinguished member of the Tennessee Bar, later moved his family to Alabama, where he practiced law from 1895-1924.

Roderick Beddow thus graduated from the Birmingham school system. As a young man, Beddow worked the largest newspaper delivery route in Birmingham. Later on, he stated that  ` this experience as a newsboy taught him much about human nature. That knowledge helped to prepare him for his success as a criminal defense lawyer.

Roderick Beddow graduated from Washington and Lee University in 1911. He began his law school education there. However, their President, Dr. George Denny, was soon after appointed President of the University of Alabama. At that point, Beddow transferred to Alabama's Law School. He graduated from Alabama in 1924. He then began a practice with his father. Later that year, Charles Beddow died -- while he was trying a case with his son. Following that tragedy, Roderick Beddow distinguished himself, and all of us, during his 57-year practice of our profession.

Roderick Beddow earned a distinguished reputation nationally, as an exceptional criminal defense lawyer. He was viewed as a real-life version of "Perry Mason", because of his honesty, tenacity, and success. As a result of his skill and hard work, he tried cases in virtually every county in Alabama, plus approximately 15 states.

Roderick Beddow was admired by his peers for his leadership and high ethical standards. He was elected President of the Birmingham Bar Association, and then elected President of the Alabama State Bar Association. In 1933, he was elected International President of the Lions Club. In that capacity, he represented their organization throughout the world. He died in 1978, at 89. He had achieved the status of being revered as a community leader and lawyer. He also devoted his time to mentor several generations of younger attorneys. For all of these above reasons, our State Bar honored Roderick Beddow by inducting him into the Alabama Lawyers Hall of Fame.

Throughout his career, Beddow represented many of the most infamous and unpopular criminal defendants of his time. He defended the Scottsboro boys, who had been wrongfully convicted of rape. Their trial was not infected by racism, it was degraded by a complete reliance on it. His work elevated national standards for both fair trials and minimizing the corruption of racism. He also defended Silas Garrett and Albert Fuller. They were accused of the murder of Alabama Attorney General candidate Albert Patterson, while he was campaigning against gambling in Phenix City in 1954.

Roderick Beddow has often been described as the best criminal defense lawyer in Alabama history. Multiple prominent cases reflected his ability, creativity, tenacity, and attention to detail.

In State v. Shirley, Beddow represented the brothers of Jefferson County's Sheriff, who were charged with murdering the son of Jefferson County's Mayor. During an argument between these men, Byron Shirley shot Mayor Jones' son. He claimed self-defense, saying that he had only done so after the Mayor's son pulled a pistol on him. The State established (apparently), that this murder must have been intentional because their forensic evidence proved (apparently) that Jones was shot from long-range, with no gunpowder burns on his clothing. Consistent with Beddow's hard work and tenacity, he had the clothing analyzed again at Auburn University (then Alabama Polytechnic Institute). Their examination proved that there were, in fact, powder burns on Jones' clothing. This disproved two key elements of the prosecution's case. That jury then acquitted Byron Shirley.

In State v. Luigi Bacciano, Roderick Beddow utilized his talent, energy, and flamboyance defending Bacciano.  Bacciano was a long-time Birmingham citizen, of Italian heritage, at a time when Italians were a "discrete minority". He was extradited from Alabama for a long-ago murder. Two of the other three men charged with this crime had already been convicted and executed. Several defense witnesses had died. Convinced of Bacciano's innocence, Beddow devoted an enormous amount of time to searching for original documents. He was told that they no longer existed. However, after traveling to Ontario, Canada for Bacciano's defense, Beddow discovered many of these files in the cabinet of a chicken house of the deceased coroner's relative. As a direct result, Bacciano was found Not Guilty.

Beddow's commitment to principle led him to regularly defend unpopular underdogs at his own expense. This included clients ranging from poor African-Americans to Ku Klux Klansmen. He defended Jake Crenshaw, an African-American accused of raping and murdering a prominent white socialite, through five trials and appeals. After he was openly threatened by a prosecution witness, Beddow responded, " By the gods, I came to try this case, and by the gods I am going to finish it....". He then achieved an acquittal.

Roderick Beddow was elected to be a lifetime member of the Fraternal Order of Police, an unprecedented honor for a criminal defense lawyer. They did so because of the quality of his work in general, and his defense of law enforcement officers in particular.

The Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyers Association bestows a Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence for Criminal Defense, when merited. This exceptional honor is named for Roderick Beddow. Past recipients have included William Clark, Arthur Parker, and Lawrence Sheffield.

Award Recipients

Mary Turner- June 2018

William H. Broome- August 2017

Tommy Spina- June 2016

Gary L. Blume - June 2015

John Lentine - May 2014

Randy Brooks - May 2013

David Luker - June 2012

Don Colee - June 2011

Bill Blanchard - June 2010

Paul Young - June 2009

T. Jeff Deen - 2008

Bobby Woolridge - 2007

Richard Jaffe - June 2002

John Mays -

Judge Tommy Nail – August 1999

Robert F. Clark “Cowboy” – 1998

Jim May - July 1995

Don holt - September 1992

Joel Sogol - August 1991

Bill Clark -

Dennis Knizley  -

Tommy Kirk -  1988

Robert F. Clark “Cowboy” - 1986 

Bill Dawson- 1980s

Arthur Parker -

Lawrence Sheffield -

Rodrick Beddow -