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.

The Hon. James A. Baker III

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.

Watch the full interview here.

The Hon. John L. Hill, Jr.

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.

Watch the full interview here.

The Hon. Ruby Kless Sondock

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.

Watch the full interview here.

John H. Crooker Jr.

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.

Watch the full interview here.

Russell "Rusty" Hardin

Rusty Hardin has more than 38 years of litigation experience, beginning as a Harris County Assistant District Attorney and then serving eight years as chief of a felony division. He entered private practice in 1991 and established the 12-attorney Rusty Hardin & Associates in 1996. Hardin has tried over 100 felony jury trials and his clients have included such high profile entities and figures as Arthur

Earn CLE Credit for This Video!
The full Rusty Hardin interview has been approved for 1.0 hour of CLE credit and is available for HBA members to watch at no charge.

Click here to view the full video for CLE credit.

Joyce M. Burg

Blazing Trails for Women in Houston Law

Joyce Burg (Frohlich) (1901-1997) was one of the first women to practice law in Houston. She was one of only two women in her graduating class of 1926 at the University of Texas School of Law. Unable to find a job after graduation, she moved to New York City and worked at the largest title company in the city. In 1933 she moved back to Houston, but found little had changed for women attorneys in the legal market. She formed one of the first female law partnerships in the state with another UT law school graduate, Helene Daily Susman. Ms. Burg continued to practice law in Houston for 70 years.

Watch the full interview here.

Hon. Weldon Berry

Judge and Civil Rights Leader

Hon. Weldon H. Berry (1921-2000) was a judge and civil rights attorney in Houston. He earned his undergraduate degree from Texas College in Tyler, then served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. He attended law school at Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law, and at the time he passed the bar in 1952, was one of only six African-American attorneys practice in Houston. He worked as an attorney for the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, and in 1983 was appointed judge of the 80th District Court of Harris County. Judge Berry was a founding member of the Houston Lawyers Association and practiced law for many years after leaving the bench. He passed away in 2000.

Watch the full interview here.

Harry Gee Jr.

From China to the Forefront of Immigration Law in Houston

For nearly half a century, Harry Gee has been at the forefront of the practice of immigration in law in Houston. Born in China, he was educated in Houston’s public schools, then attended Rice University and The University of Texas School of Law. After passing the Texas bar in 1963, Mr. Gee became an Assistant Attorney General of the State of Texas where he served in the taxation, bonds, insurance and banking and the highway divisions. He entered private practice in 1966, focusing on immigration law, and was among the first group of attorneys to be qualified as a Board Certified Specialists in Immigration and Nationality Law in 1979. He has served leadership roles in numerous professional organizations, as well as in civic and community organizations. Mr. Gee is the founder of Harry Gee & Associates.

Watch the full interview here.

Hon. Dan Walton

Civil Rights: A History of Houston’s District Attorney’s Office, Criminal District Courts & Juries

Hon. Dan Walton grew up in Tennessee and attended Vanderbilt College, where he earned Honorable Mention All American in football. He joined the Air Force in 1942 and served until the end of World War II. He attended Duke University Law School, then came to Houston, where he went to work with Butler Binion Rice Cook & Knapp. In 1954, Judge Walton was elected District Attorney of Harris County and served until 1960. In 1966, Gov. John Connally appointed him Judge of the 178th Criminal District Court, where he served until his retirement in 1984. Judge Walton passed away in 2008.

Earn CLE Credit for This Video!
The full interview with the Hon. Dan Walton has been approved for 1.0 hour of CLE credit and is available for HBA members to watch at no charge.

Click here to view the full video for CLE credit.