U.S. District Judge Harold Barefoot Sanders, Jr. died Sept. 21, 2008 at his Dallas home at the age of 83.Friends and colleagues remember Judge Sanders as a “larger than life” figure who helped make history by desegregating Dallas schools, among other accomplishments.He was a confidant of presidents and political heavyweights, but at the same time he always made a special effort to acknowledge people from the humblest of backgrounds.
As a young lawyer, I was sworn into practice in federal court by Judge Sanders, and not long thereafter had my first federal trial in his court.When he retired in the summer of 2006 after 27 years on the bench, I wrote a column about his impact as a judge.I was surprised to receive a handwritten note a week or so later from Judge Sanders, thanking me for the kind words.The graciousness of the act didn’t strike me as odd at all, coming as it did from one of the judiciary’s true gentlemen.But I was touched that a legal giant who had already received his profession’s highest accolades and been lauded by Supreme Court justices would take the time to write to me about my column.
I saw Judge Sanders a few months later at the headquarters of the Dallas Bar Association.The occasion was a speech by another federal judge, Royal Furgeson of the Western District of Texas.Judge Sanders was part of the audience, and looked frail in his wheelchair.But when Judge Furgeson acknowledged Judge Sanders (among other honored guests) the years and infirmity seemed to momentarily fade away as the audience clapped the loudest and the longest for the retired jurist, and a smile came over Judge Sanders’ face.Judges like Barefoot Sanders don’t come along very often, and in his memory I am re-running my July 21, 2006 column “Barefoot, and Big Shoes to Fill.”
John Browning is a partner in the Dallas office of Gordon & Rees, LLP. He may be contacted at: