By David Furlow
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes appreciated the value of a good book: “The best of a book is not the thought it contains, but the thought which it suggests, just as the charm of music dwells not in the tones but in the echoes of our hearts.”
This year, the Law Day Committee shared the music of Michael S. Bandy’s and Eric Stein’s book Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box with elementary students in 100 schools throughout Harris County. The committee then orchestrated the donation of that book about the Fourteenth Amendment’s promise of equality under the law with each school’s library.
This year’s Law Week focused on equality under the law. Beautifully illustrated with James E. Ransome’s watercolor images, the book told the story of one boy’s journey to an Alabama voting precinct with his grandfather in the early 1960s. The book ended by showing how the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 made the Fourteenth Amendment’s promise of equal rights under the law a reality by the time of America’s Bicentennial in 1976.
|The Hon. Justice Harvey Brown read Granddaddy’s Turn to students at Frostwood Elementary School in Spring Branch ISD on May 4, 2017.|
The HBA’s Law Day 2017 events focused on “The 14th Amendment: Transforming American Democracy.” HBA volunteers, including appellate and trial judges and attorneys from every practice, fanned out into Houston area schools to show how equal protection under the law is important to everyone.
HBA Law Day volunteers read in schools all around Houston. Nearly 100 attorneys and judges read to 8,255 students in 197 readings at 100 Elementary Schools in 17 school districts and in private schools. Law Day, a national celebration of the rule of law, has been sponsored and promoted by the American Bar Association since 1961, when President Dwight Eisenhower designated it a national holiday. HBA volunteers and staff joined local and state bar associations to sponsor activities that clustered around May 1.
Seventeen public school districts participated in the 2017 HBA Law Week Reading program: Aldine ISD; Alief ISD; Alvin ISD; Channelview ISD; Conroe ISD; Cy-Fair ISD; Fort Bend ISD; Galena Park ISD; Goose Creek ISD; Houston ISD; Humble ISD; Katy ISD Lamar Consolidated ISD; Pasadena ISD; Spring Branch ISD; Spring ISD; and Stafford ISD. Eleven private schools participated as well. Those schools include Iman Academy; Our Savior Lutheran; St. Ambrose Catholic School; St. Jerome Catholic School; St. John’s School; St. Joseph Regional Catholic School; St. Michael Catholic School; St. Theresa Catholic School; St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School; The Banff School; and the Rusk School.
|The Hon. Judge Erin Lunceford read Granddaddy’s Turn to the students of St. Jerome Catholic Elementary School in May 2017. Judge Lunceford also read to students at Rusk Elementary School in the Houston Independent School District in May 2017.|
Houston attorneys organized the HBA Law Week Committee (then named the Law Day Committee) in 1958. HBA volunteers first read to students in Houston area schools in 2003.
HBA’s Law Week 2017 efforts began in February when more than 400 special needs students and teachers watched local and state judges at the historic 1910 Courthouse. HBA volunteers and staff soon joined the Asian American Bar Association, the Houston Lawyers Association, the Hispanic Bar Association, and the Mexican-American Bar Association to sponsor Law Day Poster Workshops for children in the Chinese Community, Third Ward, and East End.
Law Day occurs on May 1 each year, but readings continue in the weeks afterwards. The Law Week Committee plans several activities throughout the year in honor of Law Day. Next year, the readings will take place April 16 to May 11, 2018, or at the end of the school year if needed.
|Above: Earl Touchstones read Granddaddy’s Turn at Kate Bell Elementary School in HISD in May 2017. Below: Mala Sharma reads at the Banff School.|
What can attorneys do to help out with Law Day 2018? The best thing is to volunteer—early and often. HBA Special Projects Director Bonnie Simmons always accepts new volunteers if they are HBA members or members of a partnering local bar organization. New volunteers are typically recruited by attorneys already in Bonnie’s existing volunteer pool. Bonnie’s volunteer groups already include the Law Week Committee, Lawyers for Literacy Committee, Speakers Bureau Committee, HBA Board of Directors, and all previous reading volunteers, as well as local bar associations such as the Houston Northwest Bar Association.
|Karen Lukin read about equality under the law and voting rights to the students of Atherton Elementary School in Houston ISD on May 23, 2017.|
Begin by volunteering for Constitution Day in September 2017. HBA will next conduct readings in Houston area classrooms in September 2017 to celebrate the U.S. Constitution. The Law Week Committee assists the Lawyers for Literacy Committee to read for Constitution Day each year. Constitution Day readings will take place on Friday, September 15, 2017 this year.
In addition to everything else, HBA Law Day readings are fun. It’s great to get out into the community and to meet teachers and students who welcome HBA volunteers into their classrooms. When Judge Erin Lunceford urged me to sign up to read to kids, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. But I loved it. So I’m signing up to read again in May 2018. HBA volunteers get to donate the book that they read to teachers at the school where they read.
|David Furlow with teachers at Stafford Elementary School in Stafford on May 12, 2017.|
I recommend this program to all Houston area justices, judges and attorneys. Please consider signing up to read in Houston area schools in May of 2018. Anyone interested in volunteering should conduct HBA Special Projects Director Bonnie Simmons at 713-759-1133 or at firstname.lastname@example.org www.hba.org. In addition, the 2017-2018 Law Week Committee will be co-chaired by Luke Gilman of Jackson, Walker, LLP, Jason Muriby of Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, and Bryon Rice of Beck Redden. HBA’s Law Week web-page, at https://www.hba.org/law-week-activities/, will answer most questions about this great program.