Jon David (“JD”) Epstein passed away peacefully in his Galveston home on January 9, 2022 due to complications of leukemia. He was surrounded by his loving family and friends.
JD was born in Starkville, Mississippi on December 25, 1942 and moved with his family in 1952 to Chester, Illinois, where his father owned a successful retail department store. JD graduated from Chester High School in 1961 where he excelled in football and basketball and played percussion in the band. He completed an undergraduate degree in accounting and a law degree from the University of Illinois in six years and was a life-long fan of the “Fighting Illini.” Shortly after graduating in 1967, JD enlisted in the United States Army. He was commissioned as an officer and supervised defensive missile sites in the Chicago area. Upon mustering out of the Army, JD took a job as legal counsel with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association in Chicago. The Association had a contract with the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare to administer parts of the Medicare program for the entire country. As a result, JD was deeply involved in the Medicare program in its embryonic years and thereafter.
In the course of his work with the Association, JD met Jack C. Wood, an attorney in Houston, Texas, who was General Counsel for the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. Ultimately JD, Jack Wood, and attorney Tom Lucksinger agreed to form a law firm focused on serving health care industry clients. Known as Wood, Lucksinger & Epstein, the firm grew to well over 150 lawyers by the late 1980’s with offices in Texas, Illinois, Florida, Washington, D.C., California, and New York. It was known nationally for its expertise in health law. JD was the firm’s managing partner during the years it grew most rapidly. In 1991, after deciding that they could better serve their clients at a national firm with expertise in many legal areas, JD and a number of his colleagues joined the law firm of Vinson & Elkins. JD led the health law practice at Vinson & Elkins until 2008. Although “retired” at that time, JD continued to practice law with the Galveston firm of Greer, Herz, & Adams, L.L.P. until shortly before his passing.
JD is widely recognized as one of a handful of especially influential lawyers in the U.S. who led the movement to recognize health law as a distinct and vital specialty. His reputation and client base extended across the entire country. He was frequently called upon to speak at professional conferences nationwide and was listed in “Best Lawyers” at a national level, as well as being a “Super Lawyer” in Texas. He was a Past President and Founding Fellow of the American Health Lawyers Association and the recipient of the American Health Lawyers Association’s David Greenburg Award for Meritorious Service. JD served as the President of the American Academy of Healthcare Attorneys and, in 2011, was named by Best Lawyers as the Best Healthcare Lawyer in Houston, Texas.
JD was one of the founders of the Health Law and Policy Institute at the University of Houston, and continued to be involved with the Institute for more than 30 years. He also served as an adjunct law professor in health law at the University of Houston Law Center. Both as a practicing lawyer and in his role at the University of Houston, JD mentored hundreds of lawyers practicing health law throughout Texas and the nation.
JD’s energies were not limited to the practice of law. He was active in the community and served in various roles for over 25 years with the Houston regional chapter of the March of Dimes. JD also was a generous supporter of other charitable and educational institutions, including serving on the Board of Visitors for the University of Illinois Law School and the Development Board for the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. In addition, JD and wife Beth endowed the “Epstein Health Law and Policy Program” at the University of Illinois College of Law to promote research, policy analysis, public service and public engagement on critical issues in healthcare delivery and health status.
JD and Beth were long-time residents of Houston. In recent years, they resided in Galveston and maintained a summer residence in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In both Galveston and Colorado Springs, JD indulged his love of golf by playing frequently. He was Past President and a Board Member of the Galveston Country Club for almost 25 years and a member of the Broadmoor Country Club in Colorado Springs.
JD was the son of Eva and Martin Epstein, of blessed memory. He leaves behind the love of his life and wife of 50 years (to the day), Beth Epstein, sister Marian Epstein Bouillion, niece Brittany Bouillion Heil and husband Ross, two grandnephews Carter and Tyler, sister in law Missy Burta and husband David, nephew Max Burta, and nephew Joe Ellis and his wife April and grandniece Olivia. He also leaves behind numerous cousins and friends who loved him dearly.
JD will be greatly missed by his family, friends, colleagues and clients. He inspired others and achieved success for his clients through his integrity, good judgment and ability to present complex issues in simple and compelling terms. As a teacher and mentor for young lawyers, he provided constructive criticism in an amazingly supportive manner. Humor was central to his personality. JD reveled in telling funny stories, occasionally at the expense of others, but everyone always understood that he cared deeply for those around him. Throughout his life and in many different settings, JD was a great leader.
There is no measure for the gratitude many have for JD’s love and support. He leaves an outstanding legacy both personally and professionally that will continue for many years to come.
There will be a public graveside service officiated by Rabbi Jimmy Kessler on Wednesday, January 12, 2022, at 11am at the Hebrew Benevolent Society Cemetery in Galveston at 61st Street and Ave. T ½.
Honorary Pallbearers will be Dennis Barry, Dr. Jim Block, Max Burta, Steve Conner, Gary Eiland, Joe Ellis, Buddy Herz, Ross Heil, Keith Katz, John Merritt, Danny Paris, and Lonnie Revious.
The family is eternally grateful for the care and oversite provided for JD by Kilan Anderson and the faculty and staff of UTMB and MD Anderson Cancer Center.
In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests donations be made to the Houston Chapter of the March of Dimes (5420 Dashwood Drive, Ste. 302, TX, 77081), the Epstein Health Law and Policy Program at the University of Illinois Law School (504 East Pennsylvania Avenue, Champaign, IL, 61820) or the charitable organization of your choice.
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