Ralph P. Cornelius

July 1, 1948 ~ October 21, 2023 (age 75) 75 Years Old


Ralph Parks "Skip" Cornelius entered this world in Shreveport, Louisiana on July 1, 1948, and moved from Houston, Texas to his heavenly home on October 21, 2023. In the intervening time, Skip built a legacy.
Born to Ralph and Betty Cornelius, Skip grew up in the Oak Forest neighborhood in Houston. His youth was filled with family hunting trips, boating adventures, and a multitude of sports. He gained his nickname from his father who taught him how to be the "skipper" of a boat. Skip graduated from Waltrip High School and, at age 23, earned combined Bachelor of Business Administration and Juris Doctorate degrees from Baylor University.
Subsequently, Skip launched a 50-year career as a renowned trial attorney in criminal law. He first-chaired approximately 500 jury trials, including dozens of capital murder cases, becoming one of the most prolific trial attorneys in the United States. Skip spent the first decade of his career as a prosecutor, serving in the Harris County District Attorney's Office ("the greatest job you could ever have") and the United States Attorney's Office. Afterward, he built a criminal defense practice, serving as counsel to the accused, and often indigent, for four decades.
As a teacher, mentor, and friend, Skip impacted hundreds of Texas attorneys. He was a passionate trial lawyer, respected for fairness and integrity in working for the best interest of his clients. Skip earned Board Certification in Criminal Law (a feat accomplished by less than 1% of Texas attorneys) and was admitted to the Bar in multiple state and federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court. The Harris County Criminal Law Association recognized Skip as "Attorney of the Year" in 2009 and awarded him the "Lifetime Achievement Award" in 2018. However, his favorite career highlights were trying cases side-by-side with his daughter, Kristin, and later with his wife, Laura.
While his career success was remarkable, Skip's devotion to his family and Christ was matchless. In 1978, he met and, two years later, married Laura, the love of his life. Together, they spent 45 years laughing and building their life, family, and faith. To his family, Skip was a pillar of love, generosity, and strength. He ate pizza with a fork and knife and taught his children to show respect to everyone. As he taught them to ski (snow and water), mow grass, or tell jokes, Skip's kids learned that by following their father they would succeed, enjoy life, and become more like Christ.
As a lifelong Christian, Skip was an active leader at First Presbyterian Church of Houston (where he co-led a several hundred person Sunday school class for 25 years) and, later, helped establish the Seven Mile Road Houston church community where his son Bill served as an elder.
A natural athlete, Skip completed more than 20 marathons, established the Young Lawyers Basketball League, and served as Chairman of the Downtown YMCA. He took up golf and patiently coached the sports teams of his children and grandchildren and would celebrate their modest achievements as if they had won a world championship.
While preceded in death by his parents William Ralph and Betty Singley Cornelius, brother William Terrell "Terry" Cornelius, and father-in-law Walt Duemer, numerous family members remain to carry on his legacy and love. Skip's family includes sister Shirley Cornelius Hipp (Richard); brother James Russell "Rusty" Cornelius (Julie); wife Laura Duemer Cornelius; son William Ralph "Bill" Cornelius (Sarah); daughter Kristin Cornelius Assaad (Gabriel); son James Walter "Jay" Cornelius; grandchildren Isabel Assaad, Michael Assaad, William Ralph "Chip" Cornelius III, Mary Lisa Cornelius, and baby due in February 2024; mother-in-law Joan Duemer; lifelong friend Roger Synnott; and numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews. As a friend to many, Skip deeply cherished his relationships with extended family and friends.
The family will host a Celebration of Life service at First Presbyterian Church of Houston on November 14, 2023 at 10 am. The family held a private graveside service on October 27, 2023. In lieu of flowers, those wishing to recognize and celebrate Skip's life may contribute to Seven Mile Road Houston (P.O. Box 271628, Houston, TX 77277) or Camp Blessing (7227 Camp Blessing Ln, Brenham, TX 77833), a special needs camp enjoyed by son Jay.


Memorial Service
November 14, 2023

10:00 AM
First Presbyterian Church
5300 Main Street
Houston, Texas 77004


Brookside Memorial Park
13747 Eastex Freeway
Houston, TX 77039


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