Tim Cole, a Fort Worth man wrongly convicted of rape and posthumously exonerated, will receive an honorary degree of law and social justice from Texas Tech University, his brother says.
Cory Session, Cole’s brother, said university officials told him Monday of the posthumous degree and said the school plans to present it to the family during the law school commencement May 15.
“Tim Cole went to Texas Tech seeking the American dream, but left with the American nightmare,” Session said. “He went there for one reason, and that was for an education. To get this diploma is justification for the education that he was denied.
“We still believed in Texas Tech, even when Texas Tech didn’t believe in Timothy.”
Chris Cook, director of communications for Texas Tech, confirmed that the board of regents approved a request Friday to bestow an honorary degree, but he could not confirm that the degree was for Cole.
Cole, 26, was an Army veteran studying business at Texas Tech in 1985 when he was convicted. He died in prison in 1999 while serving a 25-year sentence for the crime he did not commit. DNA evidence from the crime posthumously exonerated Cole.
Session said his brother was still “the older brother” while in prison, sending letters to six siblings, and offering advice on which college courses to take and which professors to get.
“I want it to be an inspiration,” Session said. “There were six diplomas on the wall, but there was one missing.”
Session said the degree was something their mother, Ruby Cole Session, who died in 2013, would have wanted. “It was one of the things she wanted, but the things she needed she got — the exoneration, the vindication and the pardon, she got those,” he said.
Cole's family fought hard and long to clear his name and has worked tirelessly for legislation to help keep such miscarriages of justice from happening. A state advisory panel on wrongful convictions was named in his honor.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984