In an insightful piece written by Trey Gifford, Trey delves into the remarkable journey of J. Vance Lewis, who emerged from a background of slavery to become a groundbreaking legal figure, practicing before the Texas Bar. Notably, Lewis achieved the extraordinary feat of successfully representing a black defendant facing a capital offense before an all-white jury. His resilience in the face of adversity, including being chased out of Liberty County by the Ku Klux Klan – only to return and triumph in the courtroom, paints a vivid picture of a true hero.

Trey’s article, titled The Astounding Impact of ‘Houston’s First Black Lawyer’, was a premier story in the January-February 2024 edition of The Houston Lawyer magazine, a prestigious publication by the Houston Bar Association. With a readership of over 12,500 members, this bimonthly magazine is a cornerstone of legal discourse in Houston.

For those eager to delve into this narrative, the article is available on page 12 of The Houston Lawyer magazine’s January-February 2024 edition.

Trey Gifford, an associate in Crain Caton & James’ Fiduciary Litigation and Probate, Trusts and Guardianship practice groups, has proven himself as a dedicated member of the legal community. He is actively involved in various committees, including the Houston Bar Association (HBA) Membership Committee, HBA Historical Committee, and the Houston Young Lawyers Association (HYLA), Trey’s commitment to legal excellence is further underscored by his participation in the HYLA Leadership Academy for the 2023-2024 term.

We extend our gratitude to Trey for crafting this memorable account of an extraordinary individual, ensuring that the legacy of Houston’s first black lawyer is rightfully acknowledged and celebrated.

Here is a snippet of the article:

J. Vance Lewis is often cited as “Houston’s First Black Lawyer.” As incredible as that sounds, the title serves only as simple shorthand for the list of accomplishments Mr. Lewis achieved throughout his tenured life. J. Vance Lewis was born an enslaved person and, after emancipation, immediately secured multiple degrees at universities in both the post-war American South and North. He was licensed in Michigan and Illinois but chose to return to the South to represent people in need below the Mason-Dixon line. He was admitted to practice in Louisiana and Texas. Not only was he the first  Black lawyer to practice in Harris County, but he also first did so while securing a capital acquittal for another Black person. All of which were done in the early portions of his life and career.

You can access the entire article directly through this link: