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The Influencers: From Canoe to Air Force One

  You may not know her name, but I bet you’ve seen her picture. She’s the one in the lower left in the photo here. She’s wearing the dress with the polka dots on it, and she’s carrying the bible. Her name is Sarah T. Hughes. The photo was taken on Air Force One as it sat the tarmac at Love Field in Dallas, on November 22, 1963, barely two hours after the death of President Kennedy, as the jet’s engines were being powered up to take the new president, Mrs. Kennedy and JFK’s body back to Washington.  To Sarah…

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The Influencers: The Judge was a Lady

Last fall, Harris County, Texas accomplished a singular feat when it voted onto the bench 17 African-American women, joining two black women already serving. It made news, and the 19 women call themselves “Black Girl Magic”. I should say so. It got me to thinking about how long people of color, particularly female people of color have been actively serving as judges in this country. I love pioneers and trailblazers, especially the ones who have to overcome the objections of naysayers and bigots to achieve their goals. In this column I’ve celebrated many firsts: the first woman lawyer, the first women…

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The Influencers: Woman, African-American, Trailblazer

Have you ever thought about doing something that no one had ever done before, a truly novel idea, and you had no idea how you’d make it happen?  Imagine, if you will, your future as a young woman in post-Civil War Washington, D.C. Chances are good that you would complete 8th grade, but they were poor - less than 50% -- that you would go on to high school. College for women in the 1870s? If you were lucky enough to go attend a college, most likely the curriculum would be designed to train you as a teacher.  Now, imagine…

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The Influencers: (She was a) Frontier Justice

Some people might dispute whether Esther Hobart Morris was actually a judge. Technically, she was a Justice of the Peace and a non-lawyer to boot. But she was hearing cases before the first women law students had entered law schools. I’d say she counts.  Judge Morris’s life reads like a John Ford western. As I learned more about her, I pictured Harry Carey, Jr., as her hard driving, hard drinking husband and the inimitable character actress Marjorie Main as the judge herself, loud spoken, sarcastic, and a little rough around the edges - just like you might expect of a woman who…

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The Influencers: The All-Woman Texas Supreme Court

Being a Texan (non-native, but proud nevertheless), I love tales of interesting episodes in Texas history. There are many, but one of my favorites tells of what may be the most unusual state supreme court ever.   The events in our story occurred almost a hundred years ago. At that time, the Supreme Court of Texas consisted of a chief justice and two associate justices. You will be forgiven if you assume that in 1924 and 1925 all three sitting justices were male. This fact would come to pose a problem for the governor and the court.  At the time, fraternal organizations were…

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The Influencers: America’s First Woman Lawyer?

Who was the first woman lawyer in America? Was it a woman who bucked tradition in the heavily male-dominated American Colonies? How about a woman who studied law not in the powerhouse commercial centers of the East, but the American Heartland after the Civil War? Or the woman who took the denial of her bar application to the US Supreme Court?  History tells us that lawyers have been plying their trade since the days of ancient Rome and Greece. But history also tells us that those were male lawyers. From what we know, there were no female lawyers in America…

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The Influencers: America’s Pioneering Women Law Students

The Law.com headline of January 21, 2020, read, “Women Hold Editor-in-Chief Positions at the 16 Most Elite Law Reviews.” It made me smile. I’ve been practicing a long time - close to 30 years. And while women have not been particularly rare in the profession during my tenure, the struggles have been real. Many women still in the profession today can recount the difficulties they encountered convincing law firms they were capable of handling the rigors of a practice. Many women today continue to face issues of inclusion, equal pay, and sexual harassment.  As difficult as those issues have been for…

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The New Serenity Prayer

The New Serenity Prayer My Mom gave me the best career advice I ever received, and I always thought it would be a nice take on the famous Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to lean in when it counts, to chill when it doesn’t, and the wisdom to know the difference. The college-bound tract at my small Catholic high school had a progression of classes that all the “smart” kids took, like freshman algebra, sophomore geometry, junior algebra II, and senior calculus. For my fellow tract-mates, arriving at calculus was as certain as Wednesday chapel or fish on…

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