Austin College student celebrates legacy of Grayson County attorney
SHERMAN, Texas (KTEN) — The Grayson County Bar Association welcomed Austin College senior Clemon White, who presented the history of William J. Durham, a Black attorney with a strong civil rights background.
"Lived in Sherman in the 1930s, and was responsible for securing a wide array of rights for African-Americans," White explained. "He was actually walking distance from the courthouse, so it's really cool to be able to come to the Sherman Municipal Ballroom and share my research in a location that he once lived in."
While there were several notable court cases that helped end segregation in Texas schools and the workplace, one of Durham's cases was especially significant.
"Worked on Sweatt vs. Painter, which desegregated UT Austin's law school, and set a transformative legal precedent that would be used in Brown vs Board of Education," White said.
Thursday's Bar Association meeting also welcomed a special guest.
"Me being the first black U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Texas, it's sobering and humbling," said Eastern District US Attorney Damien Biggs, who said hearing the story of William Durham was impactful for him.
Biggs said he wants to see more changes in the future, in both the workplace and school diversity,
"Shouldn't be 'first Black,' 'first Hispanic,' 'first woman' ... we shouldn't be having 'firsts' in 2023," said Biggs. "But the good thing about Texas is, we're making progress... we're making strides."
And he has plans to help Texas be better.
"Local initiatives that I want to roll out for violent crime reduction, domestic violence initiatives. We're doing One Pill Can Kill presentations," Biggs said.
Durham's great niece said: "It's important that we remember his legacy and the things he's done."
Durham died in 1970 at age 74.