PRESIDENT’S PAGE March 2022
Texas Women Lawyers
Celebrate and Remember
When I first addressed the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors at the very beginning of my quest to become president of the bar, I said I was looking forward to the day when it would no longer be a rarity to see women, people of color, or other minority populations in leadership positions. We still have a long way to go, but we have made progress. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s pause, reflect, and celebrate the recent accomplishments but not forget those trailblazers upon whose shoulders we stand.
2021 was a landmark year. We saw the first woman, who happens to be a lawyer, assume the office of vice president of the United States. Closer to home, Harriet Miers was named chair of the Texas Access to Justice Commission; Megan LaVoie was named administrative director of the Office of Court Administration; Genora Boykins became the first African American to chair the board of directors for South Texas College of Law Houston; and Laura Gibson was elected 2021-2022 president-elect of the State Bar, making it the first time that the State Bar’s president and president-elect, and the Texas Young Lawyers Association’s president are all women. It is also the first time in the history of the State Bar that there will be back-to-back female presidents.
I could go on. There are so many amazing women in the legal profession and their numbers are growing every year. Almost every day on social media I see more and more announcements of glass ceilings being shattered and women lifting up one another. My heart bursts with pride to see groups like the New Roundtable, Texas Women Lawyers, The Podium, and others that exist to support and empower women lawyers. I know the future is bright.
As we celebrate, we should also remember and draw inspiration from the women who went before us—women like Texas Legal Legend Adelfa Botello Callejo. Callejo, who broke barriers at every step of her long life, became the first Hispanic woman to have a statue erected in her honor in the city of Dallas in August 2021. Callejo’s statue stands in front of UNT Dallas College of Law in Main Street Garden Park, inspiring future lawyers every day.
Callejo was the first Hispanic woman to graduate from SMU Dedman School of Law in 1961, which made her one of the first Hispanic women in the country to become a lawyer. Just like other trailblazing women, Callejo struggled to find employment. She first sought a position in the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. Being rebuffed, she opened her own law office and began to give back to the community. Callejo practiced criminal defense, personal injury, and family law, and she was a tireless advocate for the disadvantaged. She knew education was the key to opening doors for minorities and dedicated herself to creating educational opportunities for all children from underprivileged backgrounds.
In a 2010 interview with State Bar of Texas Past President Harper Estes, Callejo recounted that as early as age 9, she became an interpreter for her family and other Spanish-speaking families as they sought to address issues of racism and discrimination in the tiny rural community of Millett, where she grew up.
“I saw segregated schools. I saw segregated cemeteries. I saw immigration officials be very abusive of the rights of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, and the only thing I knew was that being a lawyer would give me the ability to help people, and that’s why I went to law school,” Callejo told Estes, who interviewed her after naming her a Texas Legal Legend.
She served on the board of the State Bar, was a leader of the Hispanic National Bar Association, the Mexican American Bar Association of Texas, and the Dallas County Criminal Bar Association. She received numerous awards and honors during her long life. She practiced law until she was 88 and died in 2014 at the age of 91.
To watch the entire Legal Legends interview, go to texasbar.com/legallegends.
Sylvia Borunda Firth
State Bar of Texas
Sylvia Borunda Firth can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.TBJ