In the past 16 years I have learned so much about the history of TCDLA. I remember the first year I started I had the opportunity to sit with Judge Frank Malone, the first TCDLA president, to work on a PowerPoint project. We spent a number of hours together. I was so intrigued about criminal defense, its checkered history, and the stories he told me stick with me to this day. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to sit and listen to the stories of many of our gentle giants, who gracefully and humbly shared with me their struggles and successes in the fight for criminal defense.
Many of our giants are not with us today, but who can forget their contributions—Kelly Pace’s smile and energetic pep talks bright and early, Scrappy Holmes’ late-night stories. And I’ll always cherish Weldon Holcomb coming into the office, signing a book, and explaining to me what it was like to be a defense attorney decades ago. To this day we have Weldon’s first gavel memorialized in a shadow box hanging in the office. Many other pictures grace our home office of the charter members who first met in Dallas in 1971 to found TCDLA, if you ever have the opportunity to come and visit.
To honor our leaders, we also began taking an annual presidents picture at Rusty, which we hang in the office to celebrate anew those who sacrificed not just one year but six to work on the officer chain. These now join the more than 50 presidents adorning our wall. Each day I walk by and I look at these people, some I’ve gotten to know very well—helping me grow professionally and mentoring me over the years. The institutional knowledge of our past presidents and board members helps us all in so many ways that one can only understand when you yourself serve as an active leader in the association.
Once a small organization of some 60 attorneys, today we number close to 3,400, training more than 5,000 attorneys each year. With our grants, we continue to expand our outreach to develop experienced criminal defense lawyers. Our efforts in the legislature have also grown, assuming more importance every year. But the continued success of our association comes from relying not only on our leaders but also on our members—who contribute by serving on a committee, writing a Voice article, testifying about legislation, helping a listserve colleague, giving a referral, or assisting with all the tools at their disposal at seminars.
In my years as witness to the growth of our organization, I myself have been given so many opportunities, been exposed to truths I would never have otherwise experienced—such as understanding what actual innocence means and what it means to represent somebody who needs a fair defense. These are things I never would’ve been exposed to short of working in a criminal defense field. Most of all, I’ve been given a chance to be part of the friendship bond. I have made some truly amazing friends in this organization.
When I looked at the video put together of all of our pictures collected over the last 50 years, I was struck by the heartfelt camaraderie: simply overwhelming. I am so proud to be part of an organization with people who not only care about one another but who will also fight alongside each other. The Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association is a singular organization, one we all should be proud to belong to. I look forward to celebrating another decade—no! 50 years!—and making it to the centennial celebration. Cheers to all of our members and criminal defense attorneys who are part of the organization’s past, present, and future.