by Jessica D. Smith
Royal Furgeson, Jr. is the 2015 recipient of the Morris Harrell Professionalism Award. The Dallas Bar Association and the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism present this award annually to the “attorney who best exemplifies, by conduct and character, truly professional traits who others seek to emulate and who all in the bar admire.”
A leader in the profession, the rule of law, legal education, and our country—Dean Furgeson has demonstrated the qualities listed above throughout his nearly 50 year legal career.
“As a practicing lawyer, a judge, and now the Dean of the UNT Dallas College of Law, Royal Furgeson has consistently exemplified the highest standards of civility, courtesy, and ethics in our profession,” said DBA President Brad Weber. “I had the privilege of practicing with Morris Harrell during my early years as a lawyer, and to this day I consider him to be one of my most important mentors. It is so appropriate that Dean Furgeson will receive the Dallas Bar Association’s Professionalism Award named in Mr. Harrell’s honor. They are both cut from the same cloth. I am thrilled that Dean Ferguson’s name will be added to the list of distinguished recipients of this award.”
A native Texan, Dean Furgeson graduated from Texas Tech University with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He then moved to Austin and earned his law degree at the University of Texas School of Law, where he was an Associate Editor of the Texas Law Review. Shortly after graduating law school, he served his country in the U.S. Army for two years, attaining the rank of Captain. Following a tour in Vietnam, where he earned the Bronze Star for Meritorious Service, he returned to Lubbock as law clerk to the Honorable Halbert O. Woodward.
After his clerkship, Dean Furgeson served as an Assistant County attorney for Lubbock before joining the Kemp Smith Firm in El Paso. For the next 24 years he practiced at the firm in the areas of banking, employment, intellectual property, patent law, pharmaceuticals and securities. He led the firm’s commercial litigation section and supported their pro bono efforts.
Dean Furgeson served as U.S. District Judge in the El Paso, Midland, and San Antonio Divisions of the Western District of Texas, before taking Senior Status in the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division. He served as a federal judge for more than 18 years. He retired in 2013 to become the Founding Dean of the UNT Dallas College of Law.
Upon being appointed founding dean of the law school in 2012, Frank Newton, former dean of Texas Tech School of Law, stated in a news article: “Because a brand new law school has no track record, the only evidence of its quality is the integrity of its leaders. In Royal, you have the perfect pick—a confident, gregarious leader whose record of accomplishment adds a clear aura of credibility to the new school.”
Whether practicing law or leading Dallas’ first public law school, Dean Furgeson emanates integrity, kindness and professionalism wherever he goes.
Dean Furgeson is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a member of the American Law Institute, and Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Civil Trial Law. During his extensive career, he has received numerous awards and accolades, including Jurist of the Year from the Texas Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates, the Spirit of Excellence Award from the ABA’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity, the West Texas Legal Legend Award by the Texas Tech University School of Law, the Distinguished Counselor Award by the SBOT Antitrust and Business Litigation Section, the Luke Soules Award by the SBOT Litigation Section, the Leon Green Award by the Texas Law Review, and the Faculty Award by the University of Texas School of Law. Though being named the Morris Harrell Professionalism Award recipient has special meaning for him.
“When I was a young lawyer, trying to find my way in State Bar activities, Morris Harrell was very kind and generous to me. It always astonished me that this giant of the profession remembered my name, especially since I was from El Paso, far from his home base in Dallas,” said Dean Furgeson. “When the UNT Dallas College of Law created its “Legends Awards,” we made certain that one was named after Morris Harrell. In a very meaningful way, this recognition closes the circle for me. I am grateful beyond words.”
A former Captain in the U.S. Army, a practicing attorney and judge for nearly 50 years, and founding dean of the UNT Dallas College of Law—just a few of the many reasons Dean Royal Furgeson, Jr., is a clear choice for the 2015 Morris Harrell Professionalism Award.
Dean Furgeson will receive his award at the DBA’s Annual Meeting on Friday, November 6, 2015, at the Belo Mansion.
Jessica D. Smith is the Communications/Media Director of the Dallas Bar Association. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.