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Chamberlain Hrdlicka Celebrates Black History Month by Recognizing William A. Price

February 2021

Chamberlain Hrdlicka Celebrates Black History Month by Recognizing William A. Price

by Kisshia Simmons

This month many individuals take time to reflect on achievements and accolades of African Americans.  At Chamberlain Hrdlicka, we also are taking a moment to honor William Abram Price, an African American champion attorney in Texas.  He is an individual I consider to be an adversity-crusher. Let me tell you why, and I’m sure you will agree.

William A. Price’s importance cannot be denied--not only for the trail he blazed for every black lawyer in Texas to follow him, but also for the important role he played on the winding path to the civil rights touchstone of the twentieth century, Brown v. Board of Education.  

Price received a college education at one of the few institutions open to a person of color at the time, Wilberforce University in Ohio. In 1873, Price presented a formal application seeking a license to practice law in Texas.  He was politically active and frequently published letters in local newspapers. Texas newspapers catering to the black community regarded him highly.  In addition to becoming the first black attorney in Texas, Price was also the first black judge.  Furthermore, Price became the first black man elected county attorney when he was elected Fort Bend County Attorney and formally took office in 1876.    

Price later moved to Kansas, where he became one of Kansas’ first African American lawyers. Price founded one of the state’s only all-black law firms in Topeka and took on several high-profile cases there. Price’s profound civil rights victories before the Kansas Supreme Court in 1891 would help lay the foundation for a future school desegregation battle to originate in Kansas and make it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court—Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

Price’s advocacy in Texas courtrooms evolved as he transitioned to his practice in Kansas, where he championed young black children, who wanted to attend the same school as their white peers. Price stood up to the pressure and challenges experienced by African American attorneys during his lifetime and left a legacy of historical significance upon his eventual passing.[1]

Renesha Fountain, an African American tax attorney at Chamberlain who has practiced for 15 years, recognizes the adversity faced by William A. Price. She explains, “Price had immense drive and ambition, and he paved the way for other black attorneys in Texas, like myself.  I am proud to follow in his footsteps and provide excellent legal advice to my clients.”

Texans are known for their strong stock and impenetrable spirits. Price honed his craft in a state known for tough and resilient people, adopting the traits of his Texas colleagues.  The state of Texas truly showed an enormous amount of fortitude during the winter storm experienced this past week. The nation witnessed Texans’ strength first-hand when, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Texans persevered despite thousands losing power and water. Nevertheless, Texans are putting the events of the past week behind them, rising above and pressing forward. This resilience is similar to what we saw exemplified in William A. Price. Throughout Price’s legal career, at every challenge and setback, he remained undaunted, overcoming adversity. That’s why Price is the adversity-crusher.  Do you see it now?

Chamberlain Hrdlicka has a Diversity and Attorney Development Committee, a cross section of our attorneys, to foster an inclusive environment among our attorneys and staff and develop our future leaders.  The Firm has long embraced the enduring values of opportunity for all, responsibility from all, and a community of all.

[1] John G. Browning and Chief Justice Carolyn Wright, Undaunted: William A. Price, Texas’ First Black Judge And The Path To A Civil Rights Milestone, 43 T. Marshall L. Rev. 583 (2019).