"born a black bastard ..." The education and organization of Houston's black lawyers, 1947-1976
Hyman, Harold M.
Master of Arts
Black lawyers, to a large extent, have been ignored by the legal profession and historians. White lawyers began developing schools, offices, and bar associations while most blacks were slaves. After Emancipation, the freedmen concentrated on basic education. Few whites considered law practice suitable for blacks, therefore, legal education was neither encouraged nor readily available. The first predominantly black law school opened at Howard University in Washington, D. C. in 1867, with six students, under the leadership of John Mercer Langston, a black lawyer. For eighty years, until 1947, Howard was the only law school graduating a significant number of black students. In 1947, Texas Southern University opened in Houston as one episode in the landmark case of Sweatt v. Painter, 339 United States Reports 629 (195), between Heman Marion Sweatt and the University of Texas School of Law in which the United States Supreme Court ordered that a black man be admitted to a white law school. Texas Southern and its law school encountered hostility from blacks and whites, at different times, but the institution survived and presently graduates over seventy percent (7%) of Houston's black bar and the second highest number of the nation's black lawyers. Scholarship on Houston's black lawyers is scarce. This essay is an inquiry into the education and organization of those lawyers. Houston's black bar is considered within the context of the total American bar by Including chapters on the early development of the legal profession, organizations of black lawyers, an overview of legal education, and a comparison with Howard University’s School of Law. A composite of Houston’s black lawyers is presented from the results of a 1975 survey conducted by the writer. The bulk of the paper is on the origin and development of Texas Southern University's School of Law since most, of the lawyers graduated from that institution. The law school's archival records and the survey questionnaire served as primary data. Other sources included newspapers, personal interviews with black lawyers, court cases, and secondary literature.