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.

D. Camille Hutson-Dunn was born on June 16, 1925, in Orangeburg, South Carolina. She entered the University of South Carolina, at age 16, and completed her degree and one year of law school by 19. Hutson entered law school at the University of Michigan and received a Juris Doctor Degree in 1952. After graduating, she worked as an attorney in the legal division of the Detroit Ordinance District. Hutson-Dunn was admitted to the Texas bar in 1963, and took up a private practice. In November, 1984, Hutson-Dunn ran for, and won, a seat on the First Court of Appeals, the first woman to ever hold such a position.

The Honorable Spurgeon Bell (1908-1996) graduated from law school in 1934 and went to work for the law firm of Cole & Cole. He later joined the Harris County District Attorney’s Office until 1944, when he entered the Navy as a Lt. in the JAG Corp. After the war, Justice Bell returned to the practice of law and was elected Judge of the 125th Civil District Court, where he served from 1953-1957, when he joined the First Court of Appeals. He later served as Chief Justice of the First Court of Appeals, retiring from the bench in 1973. Justice Bell was a faculty member at South Texas College of Law for over 50 years and served as chairman of the law school’s Board of Trustees.

To view the full interview, click here.

“If I had more than one life to live,” Joe Hunter Reynolds said, “I’d live every one as a lawyer in Houston, Texas.”

Joe Reynolds, 1921-2009, devoted his life to serving his country and his profession. After growing up in Tyler and graduating from Waco High School, he responded to the attack on Pearl Harbor by enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps, suffered serious wounds, and then personally witnessed the raising of the American flag atop Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi.

Joe graduated from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1947. He served his country again during the Korean War, landed at Inchon, earned glory among the “Frozen Chosin” in the hard fight back from the Yalu River, and earned the Commendation Ribbon with Combat V. Joe earned a reputation as one of Texas’s best trial lawyers, first at Bracewell, Reynolds & Patterson (now Bracewell), then at Reynolds, White, Allen & Cook and its successor firms, and finally in an Of Counsel position with Andrews & Kurth and Schwartz Junell Greenberg & Oathout. Governor Preston Smith appointed Joe as a Regent at Texas A&M University in 1972, leading to his 16-year tenure as a Regent.

To view the full interview, click here.

Born November 30, 1942, Michol O’Connor, state appellate judge, is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Houston School of Law. After beginning her legal career in 1973, she has worked in almost every aspect of the law. She was a briefing attorney for the First Court of Appeals, an Assistant District Attorney in Harris County and was an Assistant U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas. She has also worked in private practice, Michol O’Connor, P. C., and as a corporate attorney with Kronzer, Abraham and Watkins and the Century Development Corporation.

On November 8, 1988, O’Connor was elected to the First Court of Appeals. After taking her oath of office on January 1, 1989, she was reelected on November 8, 1994. Deciding not to seek a third term, she left the bench on December 31, 2000, and went to work for Jones McClure Publishing.

Though no longer a public official, Justice O’Connor continues to serve the legal community, whether it is through her highly popular annual publications, O’Connor’s Texas Rules * Civil Trials and O’Connor’s Texas Rules * Civil Appeals, or serving on committees within the State Bar of Texas. She has also been a featured speaker at numerous Bar Associations and CLE programs and at the Peking Law School in Beijing, China.

For her work, Justice O’Connor has been given numerous awards and honors. In 1999, she received the Star of Texas Award from the Common Cause of Texas, the U. S. Department of the Treasury Appreciation Award, the Texas Bar Foundation Award, and the Outstanding Contribution Award from the Houston Young Lawyers Association.

Information provided by Justice O’Connor and taken from Texas State Cemetery file materials. The full interview is now available for 1 hour of MCLE credit on the HBA’s CLE video page. Log in to watch!

Frank T. Abraham

Frank T. Abraham was born in 1924, grew up in Tyler, Texas, and served in World War II in Europe as an infantry soldier. After the war, he attended the University of Texas undergraduate and law school and graduated from law school in 1949. Abraham went on to Houston and served his profession and his community thereafter for over 50 years with honor and integrity.

To view the full interview, click here.

Hon. A.D. Azios

Harris County’s First Elected Hispanic Judge Discusses 30 Years on the Bench

In 1949, the Honorable A.D. Azios, a former WWII prisoner of war, became one of Houston’s first Hispanic attorneys. He also was the first Hispanic judge elected in Harris County and served in several judicial capacities, in both civil and criminal courts, until his death in 2013. In 1988, he became the first judge in Texas to approve the use of DNA testing as evidence in court.

Earn CLE Credit for This Video!
The full Hon. A.D. Azios interview has been approved for 1.0 hour of CLE credit (no ethics credit) and is available for HBA members to watch at no charge.

Richard "Racehorse" Haynes

Richard “Racehorse” Haynes has been a nationally known criminal lawyer since 1956. Renowned for his courtroom theatrics and his ability to convince jurors, he has represented hundreds of clients. Among them were more than 40 defendants facing the death penalty, with none being sentenced to death. Among clients he successfully represented are famous Houston surgeon John Hill (accused of poisoning his wife) and Vickie Daniel, accused of murdering her husband and speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Price Daniel.

To view the full interview, click here.

Gordon J. Quan

Gordon J. Quan, a nationally recognized immigration lawyer, has served as chair of the Texas Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and as a member of the national board of governors of that group. He was a founding member of the Texas State Bar’s Immigration Section and section chair in 2011. Quan is certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Immigration and Nationality Law. In 1999, he was elected as Houston’s first Asian-American “at large” member of City Council. In 2002, he was selected to serve as Mayor Pro Tem.

To view the full interview, click here.

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.

The 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.

The 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 and Civil Appellate and Civil Trial specialization credit.