Dallas Bar Association

Don Glendenning—the 2011 Justinian Award Winner

by Mary Blake Meadows

When accused of being “modest,” Locke Lord’s Dallas Office Managing Partner Don Glendenning, whom the Dallas Lawyers Auxiliary has named as its 2011 Justinian Award recipient, usually invokes a personalized version of the classic Churchill quip by affirming, “I have so much to be modest about.”

Growing up as the eldest of five children in a long-time Celina, Texas farming family of exceptional athletes, Don confesses that he was a considerable embarrassment to his family from the outset, with little affinity for farming and, tragically, even less athletic ability. Worse still, he was “bookish.” So his family resigned themselves to Don’s desire to attend Rice University and then Stanford Law School, where he served on the law review.

He very nearly redeemed himself by marrying his fellow Stanford law student, Carol—a match that Don’s family all agreed was far better than they ever thought he could do, with which sentiment Don fully concurs. Carol and Don made Dallas their home immediately after graduation from law school over 31 years ago, and both still practice corporate law in the same firms they joined in 1979. Carol now serves as Chair of Strasburger & Price.

While they have no children of their own, they have attracted a large family of official and unofficial godchildren. At one point, when Carol realized that she and Don were designated in the wills of various friends to be the legal guardians for more than two dozen minor children, she began to impose parameters. Don concedes that when it comes to friends, clients and causes, parameters do not come naturally to him.  

Carol and Don’s “personal elevator speech” has been that “Don is out to save the world, and Carol is out to see it.” Over the years they have rubbed off on one another sufficiently that Don is a less poor sport about traveling, and Carol has a whole host of her own charitable involvements, in addition to those she inherits from Don.

Don currently serves as Co-Chair of the Campaign for the New Parkland, Chair of Thanks-Giving Square Foundation, President of Scenic Texas and Scenic Dallas and is on the boards of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce, the Dallas Holocaust Museum, KERA, Parkland Foundation, TACA, Texas Trees Foundation and the Tocqueville Cabinet of the United Way. He is a Past Chairman of the Dallas Zoological Society, Past President of Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, Past President of the Rice University DFW Alumni, and a former director of the National Tree Trust.

He is a recipient of the Anti-Defamation League of Dallas Schoenbrun Jurisprudence Award, the Dallas Zoological Society Good Egg Award, the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas Angel of Freedom and Distinguished Lifetime Service Awards and the Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas Pro Bono Award.

Don takes particular pleasure in the can-do spirit that characterizes the Dallas business and philanthropic communities. Favorite civic involvements have included participation in the earliest years of the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas’ creation of a new agency to secure asylum for the victims of torture, which soon came to be one of the most highly regarded such organizations in the nation, and his over two decades of work toward the public-private partnership for the Dallas Zoo, which was completed during his chairmanship. Currently, Don is particularly energized by the ground-breaking public-private partnership for the New Parkland Hospital.

Carol and Don have a strict “no comment” rule about discussing their law firms with another, even forbidding that either inquire generally about the other’s day. Instead, they have a code. A “one-cocktail” day is not too bad. A “three-cocktail” day suggests that conversation of any kind should be minimized at least until after a first drink.

Notwithstanding their lack of direct discussion of their firms and the clients that each serves (each knows of clients served by the other only if identified in the media or if they see the clients socially as a couple), Don says that of all his many relationships, his life partnership with Carol is by far the most important. “I’ve had the incomparable good fortune of getting to be married to my best friend; I’m even more excited to see her at the end of each day than I was when she agreed to marry me over 30 years ago,” he said.

That sentiment has kept alive a practice that is not popular with Don’s male friends. Every day he is in town, Don has served Carol breakfast in bed since the first month they were married. Don says it’s not as entirely noble as it sounds. Given the demands of his practice (and a pretty active set of civic involvements), Don is never quite certain if he’s going to have to beg Carol’s indulgence for a very late dinner together—or to apologize for no dinner together at all.

No matter how late he goes to bed, however, by definition, Don’s there for breakfast, “so I can at least claim to have joined Carol for one meal that day—not to mention that I have a long list of foibles to atone for.” These include one time in their earliest years of practice, before the advent of cell phones, that Don forgot to tell Carol that he would be with a working group from evening through mid-morning of the next day, and another time that Carol had to spend a night of their “vacation” in the bath tub of a London hotel to preserve client confidentiality for Don during a six-hour telephone call. Looking ahead, Don sees a lot of breakfasts in bed for Carol.

Don joins a prestigious group of Justinian Award recipients which include: Al Ellis, George Bramblett, Hon. Ron Kirk, George W. Coleman, Sam P. Burford Jr., T. Michael Wilson, Michael M. Boone, John Andrew Martin, Robert Hyer Thomas, Jerry C. Gilmore, Darrell Jordan, Forrest Smith, Adelfa B. Callejo, Henry Gilchrist, P. Mike McCullough, Edward J. Drake, Harriet E. Miers, Hon. Louis A. Bedford, Jr., Vester T. Hughes Jr., Sidney Stahl and Marshall J. Doke Jr.

Judges for the 2011 Justinian Award, who selected this year’s recipient, were Charles English, Pete Kline, John Poston, Howard Rachofsky and John Williams. Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson will be the keynote speaker for the event. Chris Slaughter, President of Thanks-Giving Square, will give the invocation at the luncheon.

Carolyn Raney, Kim Pearson and Julie Griffith are serving as co-chairs for the 29th Annual Justinian Award Luncheon. Carmen McTaggart is President of the Dallas Lawyers Auxiliary.

Please make plans to join Don as he receives the 29th Justinian Award at 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday, April 27, in the Pavilion at the Belo Mansion. Tickets are $100 per person or $1,000 per table. Attendees are eligible for one hour of CLE Ethics credit. For reservations or additional information, please contact Tina Gwinn at (214) 526-9828 or at tina@gwinn.net.

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