James Crawford Orr on Giving Back
As a young man growing up in Pittsburgh during the 1950s, James Crawford Orr had never heard of Seton Hall University or Seton Hall Law. He did, however, know that he wanted to be a lawyer, being a faithful fan of the TV lawyer Perry Mason. The son of a “hard-working truck driver,” no one in his family had ever attended college, but Orr was determined to get there. He joined the debate team in high school and started honing his skills as an orator. His team ended up making the high school nationals as the Pennsylvania State Champions four years in a row, as Orr became the number two point leader in the country. That success earned him a Brownson Debate Scholarship from Seton Hall University, the first awarded by the University. “I remember getting off the train and dragging my steamer trunk up South Orange Avenue,” he says. “I was so fortunate. Seton Hall afforded me the opportunity to obtain a solid Christian education, which has allowed me to succeed in life as I never dared to imagine.” Today, he is a highly respected trial attorney, a long-time member of the Executive Committee of Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, and Managing Partner of its New Jersey office. He also is the recipient of the Trial Attorney of the Year award from the Trial Attorneys of New Jersey, Chair of the Committee of Managers for the Llewellyn Park Historic Community, and a member of Seton Hall Law’s Board of Visitors. Orr notes that in addition to receiving a quality education, as a university student on a scholarship he was able to gain critical work experience. To help pay his expenses, he worked as a residence assistant for Seton Hall Prep, then housed on the main campus, and during the summers at the Tastee Bread factory in Newark, both of which provided him with supervisory experience. After earning his undergraduate degree in 1961, his next stop was Seton Hall Law. “In those days, Seton Hall Law was just starting to build its reputation. It was known as being a good law school where children from hardworking blue-collar families could get a solid legal education to improve their status in life,” recalls Orr, who graduated in 1964. “It also was a place where we got a lot of encouragement. Many who graduated during that time went on to become judges and to gain top positions in government.” While proud of his own accomplishments, Orr also believes that personal success only has true value if shared with others. Towards that end, he and his wife, Sharon, have contributed to the Seton Hall Law Rising campaign to create The James and Sharon Orr Endowed Law Scholarship, which will award a scholarship each year, in perpetuity, to a promising law student with a demonstrated financial need.