Rhonda Hunter – Legacy

Rhonda-HunterRhonda Hunter served as the 95th President of the Dallas Bar Association. In its 131st year of existence, 2004, the Dallas Bar Association celebrated as Ms. Hunter was elected it’s first African-American President. In 2007, she received the organization’s Martin Luther King Jr. Justice Award.

Ms. Hunter was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Charles and Ann Hunter. Hunter began living and working for racial justice and equality in a fortuitous way. She integrated T.W. Browne Jr. High School and was one of the first two African American students at Kimball High School in Dallas. She graduated from Skyline High School, received a Bachelor of Arts in Government from the University of Texas and received her Juris Doctorate from Southern Methodist University.

Ms. Hunter began her career in Atlanta, where she worked for Isabel Gates Webster, the then-First Assistant City Attorney. She returned to Dallas and worked for the City of Dallas and for the law firm of Lair, Arnold, Redington and Reed. While at this firm she met Katherine Reed, a grand damme of family law and was guided into the area that would become her specialty. Ms. Hunter became Board Certified in Family Law in 1988 and is considered an expert trial lawyer. She specializes in representing parents or children in termination of parental rights cases. She is the owner of the “Law Offices of Rhonda Hunter.” Ms. Hunter is the choreographer and Assistant Director of the Bar None musical variety show. Bar None is the principal sponsor of the Sarah T. Hughes Diversity Law Fellowship at Southern Methodist University. Bar None has raised over 1.3 million dollars awarding fellowships to over 46 fellows whose alumni include a federal magistrate, federal and state prosecutors, judges and a former member of the Dallas City Council. Bar None’s director, Martha Hardwick Hofmeister and Rhonda Hunter have led the fun from the show’s first curtain to the present. Ms. Hunter has served as the show’s choreographer for 25 years.

In 2004, Hunter headed the committee that taught the historical significance of “Brown vs. Board of Education” the landmark desegregation case, to 200,000 school children in 7 area school districts and 6 private schools in Dallas and beyond. She discussed the significance of the case to audiences ranging from New York University to Black Dallas Remembered, and, on behalf of the Dallas Bar Association, she accepted the Star of Merit from the State Bar of Texas for Brown vs. Board related events including a bell-ringing ceremony by 28 religious facilities, a re-enactment of the oral argument and an educational symposium.

In 2005, Hunter headed the Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Courts organizing, distributing and reporting the results of surveys of court personnel, judges and lawyers and their perceptions of the Dallas justice system.

Ms. Hunter and Paula Miller are the founders of the Dallas Bar Association’s Minority Attorney Business Development Initiative (MABDI) which includes the Dallas Minority Attorney Program annual seminar, conceived by Michele Wong; the MABDI Workshop Modules, which provide training in the business operations of a law firm; and the Large Law Firm Pilot Project which works with large law firms and law schools in obtaining ethnic diversity. The goals of MABDI are to provide training and increased business development targeted to ethnically diverse lawyers. MABDI touts that its training programs are open to all 10,000 members of the DBA and are entirely free. The Dallas Bar Association received the Partnership Award from the American Bar Association for diversity projects Hunter founded during her years on the Dallas Bar Association Board. Ms. Hunter was recruited to pro bono legal service by Chris Reed-Brown. She has since become a frequent recipient of pro bono service awards from the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program. Her pro bono service culminated in her serving as President of the Dallas Bar Association’s Community Service Fund in 2002 and receiving the Louise Raggio Legal Women Advocate’s Award from Legal Services of Northwest Texas in 2006.

Well known as a teacher to lawyers, Ms. Hunter is a frequent speaker and lecturer. She has served as the Course Director for “Hopwood: The Decision and Its Legacy,” Moderator of the “Futures Seminar,” and co-course director for the annual “Dallas Minority Attorney Program.” She has taught for the University of Houston’s Family Law Course and for the Marriage Dissolution Seminar; has lectured annually at the Advanced Family Law Course and currently sits on its Planning Committee. She served on the legislative subcommittee which wrote the Amicus Attorney legislation. She is the author of the article “Time Traveling: The Life and Times of W.J. Durham” and editor of the pamphlet, “Legal Legends: Lessons in Dallas’ African American Legal History.” Ms. Hunter also serves as a visiting Associate Judge for the Dallas County Juvenile Courts, an honor she has held since 1991. Hunter has served on the Executive Council of the National Conference of Bar Presidents and on the Executive Committee of the Metropolitan Bar Caucus, both national organizations providing leadership training to the legal profession. Ms. Hunter formerly served as a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. She has served as President of the J.L. Turner Legal Association and President of the Dallas Association of Black Women Attorneys, a former member of the Board of Directors of the State Bar of Texas, former member of the State Bar of Texas Family Law Council, the Supreme Court of Texas Board of Disciplinary Appeals, and the Board of Directors of Dispute Mediation Service Inc. She is a life fellow of the Dallas Bar Foundation.

In 2004, Ms. Hunter received the SMU Distinguished Alumni Award from SMU Dedman School of Law, the President’s Award from Urban League Guild of Greater Dallas, and the Torchbearers Award from the Texas College Alumni Association of Dallas. Ms. Hunter has been named a “Texas Super Lawyer” by Texas Monthly magazine and one of the “Best Lawyers in Dallas” by D Magazine. In 2008, Hunter received the Distinguished Mentor Award and in 2003, she received the Trailblazer Award from the J. L. Turner Legal Association, a Trailblazer Award from the South Dallas Business and Professional Women’s Club Inc., and a Presidential Citation from the Dallas Bar Association. During 2005, Hunter organized and fed victims left homeless by Hurricane Katrina.

Hunter conceived the “MAP” program for the State Bar of Texas which won the American Bar Association Partnership Award in 2009. “Minorities At the Podium,” is a program designed to increase the number and visibility of ethnic speakers at legal seminars and educational venues throughout the State of Texas.

In 2009, Hunter became the first African American to be a candidate for President of the State Bar of Texas. Ms. Hunter did not win that election, but through her work she continues to provide inspiration and to open the door for leaders of the future. Ms. Hunter taught modern dance for 30 years at the Mary Lois School of Dance. She began her career in dance at the age of 15 and taught two generations of children the discipline, grace and beauty of choreography, poetry and dance.

Her father, Dr. Charles A. Hunter is a Presbyterian minister, a former college professor, former teacher at the Dallas Police Academy, former moderator of Grace Presbytery and Synod of the Sun, former director of Common Ground Credit Union and founder of “The Amigos.” She has three sisters: Alpha Hunter, of Dallas; Dr. Rhashell Hunter, Director of Racial and Ethnic Ministries for the Presbyterian Church USA and former moderator of the Synod of the Covenant; Rosalyn Hunter, of Grandview, Texas, a college professor; and one brother, Byron Hunter, a film producer who resides in New York. Rhonda credits her late mother, Ann Hunter, with her independence, the development of her style and grace, her love of traveling, and her inability to take “no” for an answer. She credits her nephews and niece, Sylvan, Nicholas and Ariel, with keeping her grounded in a non-materialistic world.

Hunter believes that the U.S. is in need of focused, grounded and educated leaders. Her next goal includes providing advanced leadership training and skills courses to post graduate level professionals.