Two Fort Worth attorneys will each receive a Texas Lawyer 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes lawyers who have made a mark on the legal profession in the state.
“It is always nice to hear someone say something complimentary about you,” said Davis, 90, a retired state district judge who still practices law.
Kelly and Davis are now in the company of Texas legal legends including Joe Jamail, called the state’s most famous attorney by Texas Monthly in a January story this year, and Richard “Racehorse” Haynes, who defended T. Cullen Davis.
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It's been in the stars for me all along. I've done exactly what I wanted to do.
Fort Worth attorney Dee J. Kelly
“I am very honored to be included on this list with Clifford Davis and other lawyers,” Kelly said in a statement.
Each of the recipients will be recognized at an awards dinner in Houston in November.
Kelly, founding partner of Kelly Hart & Hallman, has served on many boards, including those of Justin Industries and Texas Christian University. He was also appointed to serve on the first board of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.
He served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, according to his online biography. Kelly earned his bachelor of arts from Texas Christian University and attended law school at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He received the Distinguished Alumni Award from both universities.
In 1994, the Alumni Center at TCU was dedicated in Kelly’s honor. Most recently, he received the 50 Year Lawyer Award from the Texas Bar Foundation.
Kelly told the Star-Telegram in 1998 that he knew he wanted to be a lawyer in high school in the northeast Texas town of Bonham. Later, Kelly was mentored by the powerful House Speaker Sam Rayburn.
“It's been in the stars for me all along. I've done exactly what I wanted to do,” he said.
You have a chance to help people with everyday problems — that is the joy that I get. You help people resolve the problems they have.
Retired state District Judge L. Clifford Davis
L. Clifford Davis worked with Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall on the landmark school segregation case Brown vs. Board of Education, Topeka, Kan., in 1954. He also litigated the case to integrate the Mansfield and Fort Worth school districts.
Davis opened the first African-American law office in Texas.
He said he was inspired to become an attorney after learning about Scipio Africanus Jones, a leading African-American attorney from Arkansas who worked for the defense of the Elaine Twelve —12 black sharecroppers sentenced to death for taking part in the Elaine Race Riot of 1919, described as the deadliest racial confrontation in Arkansas’ history.
The Elaine 12 were sentenced to death, but Jones helped lessen their punishments on appeal.
“I wanted to be like him,” Davis said. More than 60 years later, he said, he is a “happy old man, still working.”
“I enjoy what I do,” he said.
Davis earned his bachelor’s degree in 1945 at Philander Smith College in Arkansas, according to his biography on the Johnson, Vaughn & Heiskell website. He graduated from Howard University School of Law in 1949.
Davis was a senior district judge in Tarrant County from 1994 through 2003. He was a district judge in Tarrant County from 1989 through 1996, according to his biography.
Practicing law is a calling, he said.
“You have a chance to help people with everyday problems — that is the joy that I get. You help people resolve the problems they have.”
This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives