Your electing me TCDLA’s President is truly a humbling experience. Thank you so much for the honor you have bestowed upon me. My TCDLA certificate, a document I am very proud of, bears the names of Louis Dugas Jr. as President, and J. A. Bobo as Secretary. When I received my membership certificate, I never thought that one day I would affix my name, to these certificates, as President of this august body of steadfast Defenders of the Rights of those accused or convicted of criminal actions.
I was born the second of five children and reared in New Mexico. Growing up without highway speed limits and vistas that were obstructed only by snow-covered mountain peaks, I learned to think and act “outside the box.” Much to my parents guarded admiration! I was sent to Cottey College, a women’s college in Nevada, Missouri, to give me some life perspective. Next came the University of Texas at Arlington, which was my wakeup call to reality. According to my parents, I had been on a two-year vacation, and an endless college life was not a career choice available to me.
After college work was also very educational. Work at TBPP, Wisconsin Bureau of Correction, and Montana Corrections Aftercare lead me to Bates College of Law (now University of Houston Law School). My first year there saw my Property Professor giving me career advice: “Law is not for you.” Challenge accepted, I opened my practice in ’85 in Conroe, Texas, after doing a demographic study and determining I would be the only Black American lawyer between Houston and Dallas going up either Hwy 59 or I-45. I would have the added bonus of going “against” the traffic every morning. What an intelligent decision! I was board certified in Criminal Law in ’96.
Dwight Jackson—not Clay-Jackson—and I have been married since ’76, and he is retired. I have 162 hats and have worn a hat to court every day since 1989.
There are so many things I would like to accomplish as your President, but members of the Texas Legislature will convene in six months and they will need ALL of our concerted efforts to keep them on the track of justice and fairness. In this spirit, I am asking that if you know a member of the 83rd Texas Legislature, regardless of which side of the aisle they may sit, please inform our lobbyist Allen Pace or our Legislative Committee Chair Mark Daniels (our 32nd president). With your help, the vote they cast may inure to our benefit and thus to the benefit of all in our Texas courtrooms.
I am sure the part of the state where I have a large part of my practice is not unlike yours. Regrettably, some of the men and women who put their lives on the line, in order to allow us to do what we do, find themselves in need of our services. Their life experiences may have played a part in their current circumstances. To this end, I have asked Captains Terri Zimmermann and Michael Gross to co-chair our new Veteran Affairs committee. This committee will be a great resource—if not in giving alternatives to criminal dispositions, then in understanding our clients better and in presenting effective theories in their cases.
I have asked our Northern Federal District Public Defender, Richard Anderson (also our 21stpresident), to chair the Former Presidents Committee. These remarkable women and men, who laid the foundation upon which I stand, will have as one of their committee responsibilities to find outside monies for scholarships and seminar enhancement. (How many times have you heard or said, “Bring back the cookies”?) Additionally, because they were so good at it during their tenures, they will also use their charm and persuasive abilities to find more and new benefits for TCDLA. My goodness, with institutional history going back into the early ’70s, this committee just cannot miss. In fact, you might recall that Randy Wilson (our 35th president) was responsible for getting Southwest Airlines to give us discounts; I have full confidence that he will again work his charm.
You as members of TCDLA may only be as effective as the information you have. To this end, you will be able to view online the Board agenda one month before the meeting—just as you will be able to read the minutes afterwards. The agenda will wet your curiosity about attending the meetings, and the minutes will allow you to know just how hard your Board members and officers are all working on your behalf.
I remember the “frying pan” commercial, but I am better in that I have asked our five other officers, and they have each graciously agreed, to be the ex-officio members of certain committees. I believe this organizational format will lend itself to being most beneficial to us all.
We shall have a wonderful year by remembering to:
Live a balanced life—
Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sign and dance
And play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
And when a colleague goes into that Court arena
Stick with them and be aware of wonder.
—Some license taken, from R. Fulghum, All I
Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
Good Verdicts to you all.