The Houston Lawyers Association (HLA), an affiliate chapter of the National Bar Association, was founded in 1955 to address the particular needs of Black lawyers and the legal needs of the Black community in general. At the time the HLA was established, Black lawyers in the Houston area were not permitted to join the Houston Bar Association.
HLA’s history reflects its continued desire to address racial injustice. Its founder, Robert W. Hainsworth, challenged and fought against the evils of racial discrimination that were prevalent in his day. He challenged the “one chair” rule in the County Law Library, which allowed only one particular chair to be used by a “colored” lawyer and the rule in the District Courts that all “black cases” would be handled at the end of the court’s docket. Several pioneer members of HLA were involved in litigation that resulted in the outlawing of segregation in the Houston Independent School District, the prohibition of segregated service in the County Court House cafeteria and the changing of voting practices. These persons included Weldon Berry, Matthew Plummer, Francis Williams, Heulean Lott, Robeson King and the late Honorable Henry Doyle.
Finally, Hainsworth challenged the Houston Bar Association’s rule of non-admission of Black lawyers and, along with W. M. C. Dickson and F. S. A. Whittaker, formed the Houston Lawyers Association.
Today, HLA continues to fulfill the mission of its founders, by providing its lawyers a forum and an opportunity to address various issues that affect the Black community. HLA currently conducts continuing legal education seminars, evaluates judicial candidates, promotes community service activities and distributes information in an effort to foster the network necessary for professional growth and development.