The HBA Living History Project
More than two decades ago, the Houston Bar Association’s Historical Committee began interviewing senior members of the Houston legal community to capture their stories and perspectives on life and the practice of law. The HBA is pleased to share some of the videos with members and the public.
Three interviews will be featured quarterly. You can view highlights from the videos or the complete interview.
Watch Complete Interviews
James A. Baker, III, has served in senior government positions under three U.S. Presidents. He served as Secretary of the Treasury from 1985 to 1988 under President Ronald Reagan; as Secretary of State from January 1989 through August 1992 under President George H.W. Bush; and as White House Chief of Staff and Senior Counselor to President Bush from August 1992 to January 1993. Mr. Baker received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991. He practiced with the Houston firm of Andrews Kurth LLP from 1957 to 1975. He is now a senior partner in the law firm of Baker Botts LLP and Honorary Chairman of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.
The late John L. Hill, Jr. was Texas’ Secretary of State from 1966 to 1968. He served as the state’s Attorney General from 1973 to 1979. He ran for governor against Republican candidate William P. Clements in 1978 and was narrowly defeated. He was elected Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court in 1984 and took office in January 1985, serving until January 1988. Justice Hill practiced at the Houston firms known as Locke Liddell Sapp LLP and Hill, Brown, Kronzer & Abraham. In 2004 the University of Texas Law School established the John L. Hill Trial Advocacy Center in his honor. At the time of his death in 2007, he was a shareholder at the law firm of Winstead P.C.
Ruby Kless Sondock graduated from the University of Houston Law Center in 1962 as valedictorian of her law class. In 1973 she was appointed by Texas Gov. Preston Smith as judge of Harris County Domestic Relations Court No. 5, making her the first woman in Harris County to hold a district level judgeship. She held the position for four years until Gov. Dolph Briscoe appointed her to the 234th District Court. Judge Sondock was appointed to the Texas Supreme Court by Gov. William P. Clements in 1982, becoming the first woman justice on the court since 1925, when a special all-woman court served briefly to hear a single case involving the Woodmen of the World. Following her judicial service, Judge Sondock began working as a private mediator in Houston. Her alma mater hosts a biennial lecture series in her name, “The Ruby Kless Sondock Lecture in Legal Ethics” at UH Law Center.
John H. Crooker Jr. seemed destined to become a lawyer. His maternal grandmother, Hortense Ward, was the first woman licensed to practice law in Texas. His father helped found the law firm of Fulbright & Crooker, one of Houston’s oldest firms that is now known as Norton Rose Fulbright. John Crooker Jr. worked as an office boy at the firm while he was student at Rice Institute. He attended the University of Texas School of Law and served as a Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy during WWII before returning to Fulbright & Jaworski, where he retired as a partner. An ace high school debater, Crooker met a young teacher named Lyndon Johnson, and he would later become an adviser to the President. Crooker passed away in 2007 at the age of 92.