The Story Of Charlye Ola Farris And How She Made History

The Story Of Charlye Ola Farris And How She Became The First African-American Lawyer In Wichita County

Charlye Ola Farris, born in 1929 in Wichita Falls, Texas, was a pioneering African-American lawyer who left an indelible mark on her community.

Daughter of public school educators, Farris graduated at the top of her class from Booker T. Washington High School at just 15 years old. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science from Prairie View A&M College before pursuing her law degree at Howard University.

After passing the Texas bar exam in 1953, Farris made history as the first African-American woman licensed to practice law in the state.

Returning to her hometown, she opened her own law office, becoming the first Black attorney to do so in Wichita County. Despite facing racial discrimination and segregation, Farris persevered, driven by her unwavering commitment to justice and equality.

Shattering Barriers as a Trailblazing Judge

In a watershed moment, the Wichita County Bar Association unanimously elected Farris to serve as county judge pro-tem in 1954 – potentially making her the first African-American to hold such a position in the South since Reconstruction.

This historic achievement paved the way for further advancements, and in 1973, Farris was selected to act as district judge of the 78th District Court in Wichita County.

Farris’ remarkable career spanned over five decades, during which she operated a successful solo legal practice. Her dedication and impact were widely recognized, earning her prestigious honors such as the American Bar Association’s Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award and the Texas Bar Foundation’s Outstanding Fifty-Year Lawyer Award.

Honoring a Legacy of Trailblazing and Service

Charlye Ola Farris’ legacy extends far beyond her groundbreaking legal career. She was deeply involved in her community, serving on the boards of various organizations, including the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra and the Wichita Falls Area Community Foundation.

In 2006, she was appointed to the Board of Regents of Midwestern State University, a significant achievement given that the institution had once been off-limits to her due to racial segregation.

To commemorate Farris’ remarkable life and contributions, the Wichita County Bar Association established a scholarship in her honor, and the Texas Historical Commission erected a historical marker at the Wichita Falls County Courthouse.

Additionally, the Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture is currently working on a permanent bronze sculpture to be installed as part of “The Legends Project,” ensuring that Charlye Ola Farris’ remarkable story and enduring legacy are never forgotten.