Leon Carter to Receive 2011 MLK Justice Award
by Anne Pohli
Each January, Americans celebrate the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose aspiration was that one day our nation would realize true equality for all people. On January 17, 2011, the Dallas Bar Association honors Dr. King’s legacy by presenting the Martin Luther King, Jr. Justice Award to a local leader who epitomizes the values and ideals of Dr. King.
This year’s recipient is E. Leon Carter, an outstanding lawyer and community leader. Mr. Carter was 11 years old when he decided to become a lawyer, and he remembers the day clearly. He was with his mother, and she stopped the car at a service station for gas. He got out for a drink and was puzzled by a sign over the water fountain. It had been painted over, but the letters were visible through the paint—“colored only.” He questioned his mother, and at first she replied that he wouldn’t understand. But he pressed her, and she explained this relic was from the Jim Crow Laws. He wanted to know more: “How were these laws changed? How are such wrongs righted?” She speculated that it had to do with lawyers, and young Leon made his decision: “Then I’m going to be a lawyer.”
Born in Galveston, Mr. Carter is one of five children. He lost his father at the age of four, and his widowed mother moved the family to East Texas to be closer to family. Their circumstances were modest, but Mr. Carter speaks with pride of his mother’s success in raising her children.
After graduating from Carthage High School, Mr. Carter attended East Texas Baptist College in Marshall. He played basketball on scholarship and earned a degree in history and pre-law. He then taught school for a year, before pursuing his law degree at Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law, which he received in 1986.
Mr. Carter began his legal career as an Assistant District Attorney and then Assistant Attorney General. Later, he joined Jackson Walker, L.L.P. and became a partner in the litigation section. Eventually, he founded his own firm, and five years ago, he merged his small firm into what is now Munck Carter, LLP, a mid-sized business, technology and litigation firm.
Throughout his career, Mr. Carter has given generously of his time to both the Dallas Bar Association and the Dallas community. He has co-chaired the Judiciary Committee, served as a DBA Director, been a board member of the local subcommittee on the unauthorized practice of law, and is a member of the Committee for a Qualified Judiciary. He is also a fellow of the Dallas Bar Foundation and a member of the executive committee of the Litigation Council of the State Bar of Texas.
His contributions to the community at large are equally impressive. He is a board member of Camp John Marc and the Vickery Meadow Learning Center, and has served on the boards of the Martin Luther King Center, the Volunteer Center of Dallas and Big Brothers, Big Sisters.
Mr. Carter has served as an adjunct professor at SMU law school and often speaks on litigation topics. Texas Monthly has named him a Super Lawyer numerous times, and he is included in “The Best Lawyers in America, “and the Dallas Business Journal’s selection of the “Top 15 Business Defense Lawyers” in the metroplex. He is a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates and a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, an honor reserved for no more than 1 percent of the lawyers of any state.
Mr. Carter and his wife, Deborah, have been married for 28 years and have a son and a daughter. When he has some time away from his practice and volunteer activities, Mr. Carter enjoys reading, working out and watching classic movies with his wife.
Although his list of honors and accolades is long, Mr. Carter says family and faith keep him grounded. He makes time for church on Sunday and bible study during the week. With respect to the various “best lawyer” lists to which he has been named, he says, “I’ve been blessed. I can’t say I’m one of the best lawyers in America or Dallas. All I can do is be the best lawyer I can be, and the best person I can be, every day. That’s my philosophy.”
Members of the DBA and the community are invited to attend the Martin Luther King, Jr. Justice Award luncheon on January 17 to honor Mr. Carter. To make reservations for the luncheon contact Biri Avina at email@example.com. A plated lunch will be served ($12.76).
Anne Pohli practices estate planning and probate law and is a past chair of the DBA Committee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.