IN MEMORIUM: Judge Andrew Jefferson Jr.

sonny | 12/12/2008, 3:44 a.m.
        The country, and more specifically, Houston lost a giant in the legal profession on Monday with the passing of Judge Andrew Leon Thomas Jefferson, Jr. Born on August 19, 1934 in Dallas, Texas, Jefferson and his family moved to Houston in 1936, where he attended and graduated from Jack Yates High School in 1952, and earned his B.A. degree from Texas Southern University in 1956.

        Sunday, December 14
        5:30-8 p.m.
        Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ
        3115 Blodgett

        Funeral services
        Monday, December 15
        11 a.m. at the same location.

        While matriculating at Texas Southern University, Jefferson was a member of the university's renowned Forensic Team, competing alongside another high profile alumnus, the late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.

        "A great man has fallen," stated Dr. Thomas F. Freeman, who once taught debate to Jefferson. Freeman, now the Director of TSU Forensics and Honor's College, added, "Losing Andrew is a great loss to our community. He set a fine example of leadership in his role as an attorney and as a judge; but not as any judge - as a competent judge with the sensitivity to human conditions. He represented TSU very well because TSU cares about people; Judge Jefferson cared about people. His going home leaves a void. But this void should become a challenge to young people today as an example of what TSU can do in preparing students for significant roles in life."

        After his years at TSU, Jefferson attended the University of Texas School of Law as one of only five African American students, and was the only African American student to graduate in his 1959 class, when he received his Juris Doctorate.

        Jefferson worked as a partner for Washington & Jefferson Attorneys at Law in 1960, leaving the firm the next year to become the first African American assistant criminal district attorney for Bexar County in San Antonio. In addition, Jefferson served as Assistant United States District Attorney for the Western District of Texas and Chief of the Criminal Section in the United States Attorney General's Office in Bexar County.

        In 1968, Jefferson was hired as a trial and labor relations counsel for Humble Oil & Refinery Company, which later became Exxon Corporation. Between 1970 and 1973, Jefferson presided as Domestic Relations County Judge of Harris County, before being elected to serve as judge of the 208th Criminal District Court of Harris County.

        In 1975, Jefferson worked in private practice with Jefferson, Sherman & Mims. During this time, Jefferson became the president of the Nu Boule' chapter of the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, which was just one of the many organizations to which Jefferson dedicated his time. Jefferson was a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Phi Alpha Delta Legal Fraternity, and was a life member of the Houston Area Urban League Board of Directors and the NAACP.

        "Judge Jefferson broke ground and created paths in a time when it took an extraordinary amount of bravery to fight for advancement in educational and employment opportunities for African Americans in America," said State Senator Rodney Ellis. "He reached the highest honors in both. He will be missed."

        Jefferson, always the consummate statesman, was active in numerous legal, civil and political organizations, holding the highest leadership offices for the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas, and the Houston Lawyers Association. Jefferson was also an active and influential member of the Houston Bar Association, Houston Bar Foundation, Texas Bar Foundation, American Board of Trial Advocates, and the National Bar Association.

        Jefferson's local and national impact was reflected in the fact that he was admitted to practice law in all courts in the state of Texas as well as the United States district courts for the Southern and Western Districts of Texas, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth, Sixth, and Eleventh Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court.

        Jefferson's decades of work as a dedicated and skilled politician, lawyer and jurist helped him garner several awards, including the Sustained Superior Performance Award from the Department of Justice (1967); the Anti-Defamation League National Torch of Liberty Award; the Forward Times Community Service Award; and the Charles A. George Community Service Award, just to name a few. Moreover, Jefferson was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

        In 1996, Jefferson became a member of the International Society of Barristers, a society of outstanding trial lawyers chosen by their peers on the basis of excellence and integrity in advocacy.

        In 2001, the Andrew L. Jefferson Endowment for Trial Advocacy was established at Texas Southern University's Thurgood Marshall School of Law. The endowment seeks to preserve the jury trial in order to consider issues of ethics and excellence in advocacy and the role of litigation in society.

        Judge Jefferson's impact will continue to be felt through the lives of those he touched.

        "I think Andrew is one of those graduates who cannot be replaced," said James Douglas, TSU's executive vice president and former dean of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law. "Andrew made numerous contributions to TSU. But more importantly than his financial contributions was his example of what an alumnus ought to be. Andrew was also a member of the TSU Board of Regents. He will be missed," added Douglas.

        "When I became the president of the student council at Worthing High School, it was Judge Jefferson who swore me in," said Ellis. "He was a mentor to me as a young man and remained a close advisor as my personal attorney for many years. Through all those decades he played many roles in my life, but he was first and foremost a friend in the truest sense."

        Aswad WalkerDEFENDER