AUSTIN, Texas―Hundreds of people including students and alumni of The University of Texas at Austin School of Law gathered at the Travis County Courthouse on Friday, Oct. 21, to witness its renaming in honor of UT Law civil rights pioneer Heman Marion Sweatt.
The dedication ceremony of the Heman Sweatt Courthouse at 1000 Guadalupe was organized by the Travis County Commissioners Court and the Austin Black Lawyers Association. Ceremony keynote speaker Vernon Jordan, a Washington attorney and a former presidential advisor who was an active member of the civil rights movement, called Sweatt a powerful symbol of the triumph of justice. Last February, the Travis County Courthouse unveiled a bronze plaque commemorating Sweatt.
In 1946, Sweatt sued The University of Texas after it denied him admission to the Law School because he was black. A Texas judge at the Travis County Courthouse first denied Sweatt's claim. However, the U.S. Supreme Court took up the case on appeal and in 1950, the court unanimously ordered Sweatt's admission.
The case, Sweatt v. Painter, is now a staple of constitutional law taught to first-year law students. The Law School's Tarlton Law Library houses many archival sources, oral history interviews, and published works on the case. In addition, the Law Library's Rare Books & Special Collections has a complete set of appellate briefs, the transcript of the original district court trial, and over 50 years' worth of news clippings on Sweatt v. Painter (339 U.S. 629).
UT Law has a named professorship and scholarship in honor of the civil rights pioneer. The Law School is also a national leader in graduating African-Americans and Mexican-Americans according to the most recent American Bar Association statistics.