CURRENT ISSUE

Civil Rights a Common Thread in Newest Oral Histories


This year, the AHCA Oral History Committee has recorded the stories of five important figures in Austin’s civil rights history. David Richards, Senator Gonzalo Barrientos, Malcolm Greenstein, Judge Guy Herman and Judge Sam Biscoe all have two things in common: they donated their oral histories to the Austin History Center this year and they have dedicated their careers to combating discrimination.

Civil rights attorney Malcolm Greenstein and former State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos began their careers as community organizers with VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), the national service program created by President Johnson in 1964 to combat poverty. Both men became civil rights icons as they continued their careers in public service fighting discrimination in Austin, Travis County, and beyond.


David Richards successfully argued several landmark civil rights cases in both the Texas and United States Supreme Court and his distinguished career as a civil rights attorney inspired Travis County Probate Judge Guy Herman, who considers Richards his early mentor. Judge Herman began his activism in Austin by protesting the destruction of trees in connection with an addition to UT’s Memorial football stadium. In doing so, he ended up in a photograph of protestors who had climbed the endangered trees that ran in New York Times. He has dedicated his career to reforming the judicial system in ways that protect the rights of the mentally ill.


Former Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe was inspired to public service when he became an intern with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund after graduating from UT Law School. Prior to his decades long political career, Biscoe was a civil rights attorney who worked for 10 years on Austin school desegregation litigation.

In this year full of incidents shining a spotlight on racial and social injustice, the AHCA Oral History Committee has ensured the stories of these civil rights advocates are preserved for future generations of researchers, historians and educators. To view the videos of their oral histories, and those of the other fascinating individuals interviewed this year, visit the Oral History section of the AHCA website.