Family of Judge Black
Shown are Elizabeth Black Berry (daughter of the late Judge Norman W. Black) and Berte Black (widow of Judge Black), with Hon. Steve Kirkland (awardee), and Hon. Charles Spain (Section co-founder, past Chair, and awardee).
Given by the LGBT Law Section, formerly the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification Issues Section, of the State Bar of Texas in memory of United States District Judge Norman W. Black to a past or present member of the State Bar of Texas for a signification contribution to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered legal issues.
The Award is named after the late Honorable Norman W. Black (1931-1997), judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Judge Black was the federal judiciary’s liaison to the State Bar board of directors, and he pointedly criticized the board of directors when on October 4, 1996 it denied the initial creation of the proposed Gay and Lesbian Issues Section. The Texas Lawyer mentioned Judge Black’s criticism at the time. See Janet Elliott, Bar Denies Gay Issues Section, TEX. LAW., Oct. 14, 1996, at 1 (“I’ve always learned a lot about my fellow members from these meetings. . . . Today’s the first time I wasn’t real proud.”).
The Bar Association for Human Rights of Greater Houston, the driving force behind the creation of the Section, recognized Judge Black at its April 8, 1997 annual meeting with a plaque for his role as an outspoken guardian of human rights. Judge Black told the BAHR members of his vocal criticism of the State Bar board of directors and explained that his deep personal commitment to human rights was kindled during his youth as a Jew growing up in segregated Houston, matured throughout his judicial career, and nurtured through his collegiality with individuals such as the Honorable John Brown, who served as chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit during the Civil Rights Era. Judge Black exhorted the BAHR members to continue the fight for an LGBT law section, concluding with the words of Winston Churchill, “Never give up.”
The State Bar board of directors voted on April 17, 1998 to approve the creation of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identification Issues Section. Judge Black’s 1996 rebuke was again published in the Texas Lawyer days before the board meeting. See Janet Elliott, Two New Bar Sections Garner Support, TEX. LAW., Apr. 13, 1998, at 1.
Judge Black’s family graciously gave the Section permission to name the Award after him, and it was first given in 2000.