Moments in History
Prominent Houston leaders founded South Texas to create an opportunity for working professionals to study law. From its earliest days, South Texas offered an exceptional education taught by some of the finest legal minds. The timing of that wise decision a century ago aligned with a fast-developing Houston region, and Greater Houston and South Texas Law have advanced together for 100 years. Today, South Texas serves as one of the most successfully and intentionally diverse law schools in the most diverse city in America.
September 24: South Texas School of Law opens for the inaugural class, offering evening classes to working professionals. Tuition was $85 per year. The first class consisted of 34 students, including five women. All classes were held in a single room on the third floor of the original Houston YMCA building at Fannin and McKinney Streets.
Ann Marie Hollenberg '28 becomes the first female graduate.
Spurgeon Bell joins the faculty. The “Professor of Procedure” taught at South Texas until 1991, taking a few years off when he moved to Austin to work as an attorney with the Court of Criminal Appeals. Judge Bell was a pillar of the college and one of its strongest driving forces, leaving as his legacy a model of integrity, professionalism, and accomplishment.
Formed in Fall of 1953, the South Texas Law Journal was the idea of Honorable Clair E. Getty Jr. ’56, who was also the first editor-in-chief of the journal. Since its inception, this quarterly journal was the only standard law review in the United States edited entirely by students of an evening law school. Now known as the South Texas Law Review, the student edited law journal continues to be one of the most sought after memberships at South Texas. Rigorous requirements, including participation in the Law Review Write-On Competition, help determine which students are admitted to Law Review candidacy.
Mamie Proctor '68 becomes the first Black graduate.
Jane F. Yount becomes the first woman to receive the Distinguished Alumna Award.
1976 South Texas celebrated the dedication of its new three-story addition, the Jesse H. Jones Law Building, named in honor of the Houston builder and philanthropist. This building, generously funded by Houston Endowment Inc., which was founded by Jones, doubled the size of the college’s physical plant.
A replica of the Liberty Bell is received from an anonymous donor to commemorate the 1976 U.S. bicentennial. A school tradition begins as students ring the bell after their final law school exam before graduation. Over the years, the ritual has grown to include celebrations with family and friends in the school’s atrium.
Dean T. Gerald Treece — “Coach” — directed STCL Houston’s nationally renowned Advocacy Program for more than 40 years. He first launched South Texas’ mock trial and moot court program in August 1978, at the time noting, “South Texas College of Law has the potential to produce the best Advocacy team in the country… all we need to do is develop it.”
In 1980, Joe W. Bailey, II, Catherine C. Bertrand, and T. Lamar McCorkle, Jr. claimed South Texas’s first national championship at the ATLA National Mock Trial Competition. Since then, thousands of South Texas students have represented the Law School in Moot Court, Mock Trial, and Dispute Resolution competitions as a means of preparing them for legal practice. South Texas has long recognized that preparation for battle in the courtroom requires practical application as well as abstract theory. The result is the nationally renowned Advocacy Program, which blends persuasion and logic, as well as reason and passion, through in-depth training. Our students have continued this winning tradition, earning championships and awards across the United States and internationally.
The appeal of Pennzoil vs. Texaco was argued in Joe Green Auditorium at South Texas College of Law Houston. Due to public interest in the case, the arguments were moved to South Texas so more people could observe the proceedings. In the appeal, Texaco sought to set aside a trial court verdict in favor of Pennzoil, awarding them $10.54 billion in damages. The First Court of Appeals upheld the verdict, which is still one of the largest civil verdicts in US history.
August 20: The South Texas Disability Clinic, South Texas’s first legal clinic, opened its doors at 1602 San Jacinto, formerly a vacant building. Seven student interns began the clinic program, most of whom would work well over the number of hours required to receive credit. Known today as the Randall O. Sorrels Legal Clinics, the clinics moved to campus in 2012 and expanded. Our clinicians continue to help those who otherwise would not receive legal counsel and to offer students an opportunity to experience the law firsthand.
South Texas College of Law opened the Center for Legal Responsibility, to provide training in managing conflict, resolving disputes, and devising settlement strategies, assuring that South Texas graduates are skilled in resolving societal conflict. In honor of Judge Frank G. Evans, who was known as the “father of ADR in Texas” and who was the main force behind the passage of the Texas Alternative Dispute Resolution Statute in 1987, the Center was renamed the Frank Evans Center for Conflict Resolution in 2004. Today, the Center oversees the school’s mediation clinic, along with training for Practitioners in Mediation and Collaborative Law. The Center also hosts the Inter-School Negotiation Practicum, a fully centralized month long negotiation exercise where students participate utilizing actual court documents from a pending lawsuit. Since its inception in 2019, more than 44 schools and 2,400 students have participated.
Thanks to the incredible generosity of Fred Parks ’37, the new Fred Parks Law Library is dedicated. Former President George H. W. Bush, a close, personal friend of Mr. Parks, was the keynote speaker. In his remarks he stated, “As President, I often spoke of a concept I called being One of a Thousand Points of Light. Fred Parks was a shining example of what I mean by that – of giving something back, and lifting the lives of others… Through his life, Fred answered when duty – and decency – called him. And this library, which will serve so many for so long, is a perfect tribute.”