Judge Thomas H. Routt Papers:
An Inventory of Records at the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library
Judge Thomas Routt’s legal career began before the significant federal civil rights legislation of 1964 and 1965. Prior to that, African Americans, particularly in the South, were denied basic civil rights, such as voting, eating at downtown lunch counters and attending schools with whites. Segregation was enforced with poor education, discriminatory laws and enforcement, intimidation, weapons, and murder. Election of African Americans to public office was not possible. Other economic benefits were denied also, such as equal hiring and promotion. This environment with its residual effects, even after legislation had been enacted, made the accomplishments of Thomas H. Routt even more remarkable as he climbed up the ladder of a profession long ruled by a very closed network of white lawyers.
Because of his accomplishments under unfavorable circumstances, Thomas H. Routt was an African American pioneer. Born in 1930 near Navasota, Texas, he graduated from local schools, obtained a degree from Texas Southern University in 1951 and returned for a Juris Doctorate degree in 1961 and was admitted to the Texas bar association. All of these accomplishments came before the social upheaval of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Routt went into private practice until July, 1965, when he was appointed Assistant Attorney General of Texas for a year, just after federal legislation went into effect protecting the right of all Americans to vote. He managed the Houston Legal Foundation through August, 1968, and then became the first African American to be appointed as a Municipal Court Judge in Houston. He served in that capacity until 1972, served another eight months as Assistant Attorney General and then was elected judge of Harris County Criminal Court #6 from August, 1973 through May, 1977. In June, 1977, he was appointed judge of the 208th District Court where he served until his death in 1991.
His outside activities included seventeen years on the Board of Governors of the Red Cross, a Grand Master of the Scottish Rite and York Rite along with numerous other civic memberships.
This collection focuses on the legal career of Thomas H. Routt and documents how he advanced from a lawyer to a District Court Judge. Contents include correspondence, newspaper articles, certificates of accomplishments and elections, photographs, one page in a book that documents noted African Americans of Texas and various plaques and a gavel awarded to him.
Permission to publish or reproduce materials from the Judge Thomas H. Routt Papers must be obtained from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center or the appropriate copyright holder.
Judge Thomas H. Routt Papers. MSS 444. Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library.
Donated by: Mrs. Ritchie Routt in 1992.
Processed by: Ron Drees May, 2008.