Senator Ellis Press Release

For Immediate Release
November 11, 2010
Contact: Tina Tran, 512-463-0113

Sculpture of Civil Rights Champion James DeAnda To Be Unveiled Nov. 12

Event: The University of Texas School of Law will host a sculpture unveiling to celebrate the life of the late Honorable James DeAnda, a pioneering lawyer, social activist and federal judge whose career included successfully fighting the segregation of Mexican American children in Texas schools.

The celebration for DeAnda, one of the university's and law school's most distinguished graduates, is open to the media and invited guests.

Prior to the unveiling, Law School Dean Larry Sager and Houston attorney Scott J. Atlas will discuss the importance of DeAnda to the Law School and the significance of his accomplishments. Creation of the bronze bust of DeAnda by Utah artist Edward Hlavka was made possible through a donation by Atlas, a 1975 graduate of the Law School, and the Honorable Nancy F. Atlas.

When: 6-7:30 p.m., Nov. 12. Scott Atlas and Hlavka will be available for media interviews at 5:30 p.m.

Where: The Joseph D. Jamail Pavilion in the School of Law on The University of Texas at Austin campus. Visitor parking is available in the San Jacinto Garage at no charge by mentioning the DeAnda event to a parking attendant. Maps and directions are available online.

Background: The son of Mexican immigrants, DeAnda graduated from the School of Law in 1950 when there were only a handful of Hispanic law students. He was the youngest member of a legal team of four Hispanic attorneys that won a U.S. Supreme Court victory in 1954 in Hernandez v. State of Texas, which overturned an all-white jury's murder conviction of a southeast Texas man who was Mexican American. On appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled all Hispanics were a separate group deserving the same constitutional protections as other minorities. Relying on Hernandez, DeAnda filed successful court challenges throughout South Texas to Texas' system of "Mexican schools." This played a critical role in the fight against discrimination targeting Mexican American children in the Texas public education system.

A native of Houston, DeAnda co-founded the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund in 1968 and created Texas Rural Legal Aid in 1970 (now called Texas RioGrande Legal Aid). In 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed DeAnda to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, making him the second Mexican American named to the federal bench. After retiring from the bench in 1992, DeAnda continued to practice law with the Houston law firm of Solar & Associates. He was awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award for Community Service from The University of Texas School of Law Alumni Association in 2004. DeAnda was 81 years old when he died in 2006.

For more information, contact: Laura Castro, director of media relations, School of Law, 512-825-9525 (cell), 512 232 1229.