Louise Raggio Passes Away
Dallas Bar Association member and women’s rights activist Louise Raggio passed away January 23, 2011. She was 91 years old. Ms. Raggio graduated from SMU School of Law in 1952.
After graduating valedictorian from Austin High School, she attended the University of Texas at Austin where she graduated magna cum laude in 1939 with a bachelor’s degree and a teacher’s certificate. Shortly thereafter, in 1941, during a Rockefeller fellowship in public administration at American University in Washington, D.C., she met and later married Grier Raggio.
After World War II, Ms. Raggio decided to continue her education. With a family at home, but at the urging and support of her husband, she decided to pursue a law degree. By attending night law school in a class where she was the only woman, Ms. Raggio completed her degree and set in motion what would become a record-setting legal career.
Ms. Raggio was a trailblazer in more ways than one. After a slow start in 1952 because no one was hiring female attorneys, Ms. Raggio got the break she needed in the form of Sarah T. Hughes, a state judge at the time. Judge Hughes had been urging District Attorney Henry Wade to hire a woman as the assistant district attorney. He finally did so, and the rest is history.
Not only was Ms. Raggio the first female assistant district attorney in Dallas County, she was also the first woman to prosecute a criminal case, the woman behind the Marital Property Act of 1967, which eliminated legal discrimination against women in Texas, the first woman to become chairman of the State Bar of Texas’ family law panel, the first woman director of the State Bar of Texas, and the list goes on.
In 1958, she quit the DA’s office to enter private practice with her husband and Raggio & Raggio, P.L.L.C. was created. Ms. Raggio focused her practice on women and family rights, where she strived for equality and fairness. She was often been called the “Mother of Family Law in Texas.”
She was well respected among the Dallas legal community and though a “Texas Tornado” in the legal field, Ms. Raggio was also an attentive mother and active family person. Judge Francis Harris once wrote, “Her pioneering efforts have made her one of the leading lawyers of our time, yet she remains warm and unfailingly humble. She is truly a remarkable woman.”
Among her numerous awards, Ms. Raggio has received the Dallas Bar Association’s Morris Harrell Lawyer of the Year Award, the inaugural DBA Outstanding Trial Lawyers Award, the ABA’s Margaret Brent Award and she is also an inductee in the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame. She was listed as one of The Best Lawyers in America and Southern Methodist University has a lecture series in her name.
Ms. Raggio is survived by her sons Grier Raggio, Jr., Kenneth Raggio and Thomas L. Raggio, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.