New Books, PowerPoints, and Opportunities to Give Back to the Community:the HBA Teach Texas Committee Teaches Again

By David A. Furlow, Co-Chair, HBA Teach Texas Committee

“We are not born for ourselves alone,” wrote Cicero, an exemplary attorney and respected member of Rome’s community of lawyers. “A part of us is claimed by our country, another part by our friends.” Houston area attorneys who want to give back to their country and community, those who love history, and those who enjoy the company of their brethren of the law and bench can do so by volunteering to teach HBA Teach Texas Committee classes in Houston area schools. So please sign up to teach a class or two to Houston-area Seventh Grade history students through the HBA TEACH TEXAS COMMITTEE, which spearheads this program along with the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society’s Fellows. The Committee will soon send volunteer judges, justices, and lawyers into schools to teach students important lessons about how the Rule of Law came to Texas.

Teach Texas Committee Chair Justice Brett Busby and HBA Educational Director Ashley Steininger are scheduling Houston area middle schools to participate in the program in the Spring of 2018 between April 2 and May 11, 2018. In the past two years, thanks to the work of many generous HBA volunteers, over 13,000 seventh graders in 32 middle schools learned about Texas legal history and the current structure of our justice system. With your help, we can reach more students this year. Don't miss the opportunity!

To volunteer, just send an email to HBA Education Director Ashley G. Steininger at or call her at 713-759-1133. Ashley will work with volunteers to find classes that work with their schedules. That’s not hard; it’s easy. Now here are a few reasons you should sign up now to have the time of your life.

HBA volunteer Fourteenth Court of Appeals Justice Kevin Jewel loved teaching 7th graders at Cinco Ranch Jr. High in the HBA Teach Texas program.

Teaching judicial civics and courtroom history classes to seventh grade Texas history students is a blast for volunteers, seventh grade teachers, and students alike. The Committee provides volunteers with PowerPoints and lesson plans. Many lawyers read from James L. Haley and Marilyn P. Duncan’s well written and illustrated textbook, Taming Texas: How Law and Order Came to the Lone Star State.

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht has long been an avid supporter of the program. In his foreword to Taming Texas, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht explained the purpose of these books:
The laws people choose for themselves describe the society they live in. Does it protect individual liberty? Respect property rights? Limit government? Treat people equally? Try to provide justice to the rich and poor, the strong and weak, alike? To us, the answers may seem simple. But over the years, judges and lawmakers have fought against power and prejudice to produce the society we enjoy today. This book is about how that happened in Texas.

The Society provides hardback copies of the book to middle school Texas history teachers and social science administrators free of charge, while making electronic copies available without charge in easy to download e-book formats for Kindle, iBook, and PDF at the Society’s Taming Texas .

Houston attorneys David Beck and Warren Harris have organized and funded the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society’s Fellows program to share the Society’s “Taming Texas” judicial civics program with teachers and students in seventh-grade Texas history classes. The generosity of the Fellows enabled the Teach Texas Committee to produce a 2016 book, Taming Texas: How Law and Order Came to the Lone Star State. Written specifically for seventh grade Texas history classes, this book shows students how the state’s court system fits into the larger picture of Texas history: its roots, heroes, growing pains, and milestones, from the days of early Spanish colonization to the present.

The second book’s opening stories help students place themselves in an early Texas in which there was no law or order, and challenge them to think about how a society begins to organize itself. Subsequent stories show how laws were made and tested in the courts over the next 150 years, with an emphasis on the aspects of the Texas experience that are uniquely our own.

The Society’s Fellows have recently published a second book in the Taming Texas series. While the first book covered the evolution of our state’s legal system from the colonial era through the present day, the second book, entitled Law and the Texas Frontier, focuses on how life on the open frontier was shaped by changing laws.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Paul Green (left); Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht (center); Austin attorney Skip Watson (right) met recently in Austin to hear about the Fellows’ Taming Texas educational program in Austin. Photo by Texas Supreme Court Historical Society photographer Mark Matson.

This second book takes a closer look at how life on the frontier of Texas both shaped and was shaped by changing laws. Beginning with the claiming of El Paso by Spanish conquistador Don Juan Oñate in 1598 and ending with the closing of the Texas frontier in 1900, the book shows how the characters and events of Texas history were connected in important ways to the legal systems in place at each juncture. It also reveals what happened when the laws were not up to the task of protecting people, especially during the Civil War and Reconstruction.

The Committee appreciates Chief Justice Hecht’s time and effort in writing the foreword for both books. Jim Haley and Marilyn Duncan are the coauthors of these superb books.

Texas Supreme Court Historical Society President and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Dale Wainwright (ret.), left, and Justice Paul Green, right. Photo by Mark Matson.

Again, to volunteer, just send an email to HBA Education Director Ashley G. Steininger at or call her at 713-759-1133. HBA Education Director Ashley G. Steininger will work with volunteers to find classes that work with their schedules. There’s no better way of doing what Cicero suggested by giving back to your community and country, and there is no better way of enjoying the collegiality of your professional colleagues of the bench and bar.