May 31, 2016 - Judge Mary Bacon was honored recently for her 15 years of service to the 338th Criminal District Court of Harris County with a portrait unveiling hosted by the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association.
The portrait, and reception at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center, was the type of recognition the 1972 alumna of the University of Houston Law Center typically tries to avoid, but she obliged after years of pressure from Cheri Schultz, a former court liaison officer, and attorney Dennis Yates. The portrait will hang in the 338th District Courtroom.
"I am not a spotlight seeker," said Bacon who retired from the bench in 1998. "I had rejected the idea for 10 or 15 years. Finally my oldest son said to me, 'Mom, it's not all about you.' So I agreed. Then of course it was just wonderful. There were so many people that I had worked with and admired who were there."
In 1981, Bacon was appointed by Judge Henry Schuble as an associate judge to the 245th Criminal District Court of Harris County. Two years later she became the judge of the 338th Criminal District Court after being appointed by Gov. Mark White. Bacon said she fondly remembers her time on the bench, and the people with whom she interacted.
"The best part of being a judge, if I joke about it, is that my jokes were funny for 15 years," she said. "If I take it seriously, it's the people I worked with. Everybody – the people who maintain order in the court, sheriff's deputies, the clerks, the court reporter, the members of the DA's office. The defense attorneys are often witty and startlingly good at their jobs, and make you see things in a different point of view from what you read in the newspaper. They were all just outstanding, excellent people."
Bacon began her path toward a legal education at the Law Center in 1969 as a 39-year-old wife and mother of four children. She quickly realized she wanted to pursue a career in criminal law.
"Criminal law was always of great interest to me," Bacon said. "I liked mystery books from the time I was a child. The cases that you read in criminal law are little stories in themselves."
After earning her J.D. in 1972, Bacon established her own practice where she specialized in family law.
"I've had nothing but positive thoughts about the Law Center," Bacon said. "When I finished law school, I certainly didn't think I knew everything, but I had tools to learn that were helpful."
Bacon sponsors the Judge Mary Bacon Scholarship at the Law Center, which was started by her four children.
"We were all on vacation in Montana and there suddenly was a quiet time. One of them stood up and said, 'Mom, we have something we want to tell you.' They had started the scholarship in my name, and I cried a little bit. It was just wonderful."
She decided she wanted the scholarship to go to a student who was like her – someone balancing a family with law school.
"My kids said, 'Then that's just going to be limited to women, isn't it?' I said, 'No way!' It's for a man or a woman," Bacon said.
Bacon said the scholarship gives her a sense of connection to the Law Center, especially when she is contacted by the recipient.
"It's particularly special when I hear from the person who gets it, Bacon said. "I've received some very sweet and thoughtful letters."