Professor Jayne Barnard to "Hustle Up the Hancock" on Feb. 26

  • Remembering John Tucker
    Remembering John Tucker  From left, Laura Tucker, Jane McAtee, and Jayne Barnard were among the family members, friends, and former colleagues who participated in the 2011 "Hustle Up the Hancock" fundraiser in Tucker's memory.  
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Barnard will participate for the second time in a stair climb of Chicago's famous 100-story skycraper to raise money for lung disease research and education in honor of her late husband John Tucker.

Ask anyone what John Tucker was like, and you'd get one resounding answer: passionate. To his partners at the law firm Jenner & Block in Chicago, he was a go-getter who always wanted to win. To his children, he was a civil rights activist committed to the underdog. And to his wife, Jayne Barnard, Cutler Professor of Law and Kelly Professor of Teaching Excellence at William & Mary Law School, he was an optimistic author who retired and moved with her to rural Virginia. There, they enjoyed the outdoors and traveling until he passed away from lung cancer in the fall of 2010.

John, a Chicago native, was a lawyer at Jenner & Block for 27 years. He defended everyone from mobsters to white collar executives and represented many notable clients throughout his career, including the University of Illinois, the Evanston School Board, former Congressman Abner Mikva, former Cook County Assessor Tom Hynes and Richard M. Daley, who at the time was Cook County state's attorney. One of John's most significant court cases was U.S. Supreme Court case Elrod v. Burns, which struck down Chicago's patronage system.

His daughter, Laura Tucker of Chicago, fondly remembers family trips to watch her father argue cases in the Supreme Court or to participate in anti-war demonstrations.

"My dad was committed to recognizing civil rights for everyone and felt it was our responsibility to make sure everyone has an equal playing field," Laura said. He set that example at his firm by being heavily involved in its pro bono criminal defense work.

It was at the firm that John met his future wife. He and Jayne shared a secretary, and Jayne admired John's work. "He was one of the most creative lawyers ever," Jayne said. "He was always coming up with theories that no one else had thought of."

They married in 1983, and while they had reasons to stay in Chicago - their careers and their families - the couple followed their dream and moved to Virginia. Jayne became a professor at William & Mary Law School and John spent much of his time outdoors. Thanks to his newfound tranquility, he was able to quit smoking, something he could never do under the stress of his work life in Chicago.

"John had always harbored a desire to decompress and he was able to do that in Virginia," Jayne said. "There, I had a terrific teaching job and he was able to write two books and numerous articles and op ed pieces for newspapers. He also enjoyed following politics, going to races and learning to cook."

John's books, "May God Have Mercy" and "Trial and Error: The Education of a Courtroom Lawyer," are still used in law classrooms today. He was beginning work on a book about President Barack Obama in the spring of 2010, when recurring respiratory issues prompted him to see a doctor. A chest X-ray revealed that he had stage 3 lung cancer.

"John hadn't smoked for 20 years," Jayne said. "He had always been the most optimistic person I knew, but he was crushed by the diagnosis."

John had his first surgery in May of 2010 at the University of Virginia. Doctors removed some lymph nodes and he underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments. He had surgery again that September, but got a severe infection afterward. He passed away 10 days later.

In December of 2010, Jenner & Block held a memorial service for John in Chicago. At the service, Jayne was approached by one of her and John's former colleagues. He told her about Jenner's annual team for Hustle Up the Hancock and asked if the team could dedicate their 2011 climb to John. Hosted by Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, the stair climb raises $1 million annually to raise funds for local lung disease education, research and programs. Jayne thought John would be honored by the effort and joined the team herself.

More colleagues and family members have joined the team this year, and it now includes three generations of Tuckers.

"John absolutely loved Chicago, Jenner & Block and his family," Jayne said. "To have asked him to imagine that his colleagues and family would be coming together in such a way - and with so many generations - he'd be astonished and proud."

Jayne said Hustle has become easier the second time around. Last year she worked with a student trainer at William & Mary to prepare for the climb, and could tell the trainer was "revved up at the prospect of getting an aging professor ready to climb so many stairs." The hard work paid off, and this year she feels physically more ready for the daunting event. She's also more emotionally prepared this year, with friends and family helping her reflect on the experiences she and John shared in different stages in their lives. The fundraiser is one way for Jayne and them to honor John.

"John was just such an unforgettable guy," Jayne said. "Remembering him in so many ways is part of the grieving process, but also such a pleasure."

The "Jenner Not Ready for Climb Time Players" is consistently a top fundraising team. This year, its members have raised more than $8,000 toward their goal of $10,000. To support the team in their fundraising efforts or to offer words of encouragement, visit