By Jeffrey L. Boney | Houston Forward Times
Eric B. Williams II was recently recognized as the first Black valedictorian of South Texas College of Law Houston at their May 21st Commencement ceremony at the George. R. Brown Convention Center.
Williams, who presented the student address during the Commencement ceremony, was one of 241 spring/summer 2022 graduates of South Texas College of Law Houston.
Williams was the first Black male to serve as editor-in-chief of the South Texas Law Review, the only honoree from a Texas law school named a 2022 National Jurist Law Student of the Year, a Presidential Fellow, a Langdell Scholar, and STCL Houston’s 2021-22 Outstanding Male Student. He completed multiple judicial internships while in school.
Williams will begin as an associate with Foley & Lardner this fall, and he will serve as a clerk for Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod, U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, in 2024.
“I am extremely proud of Eric Williams—of the success he has achieved and of the leadership he has demonstrated during his three years at South Texas,” said President and Dean Michael F. Barry. “I am equally proud of the resilience, dedication, and tenacity all our South Texas graduates have shown during the pandemic. Despite unprecedented challenges, these graduates excelled in their legal studies and are prepared to serve their clients and the legal profession with distinction. As they join some 16,000 STCL Houston alumni who lead and serve across Texas and around the country, I look forward to all they will accomplish.”
This year’s Commencement speaker was U.S. District Judge George C. Hanks, Jr., who was appointed by President Barack Obama in April 2015. Prior to his appointment, he had served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge, a Justice on the Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas, and as the judge of the 157th District Court in Houston. In private practice, Judge Hanks specialized in complex commercial and medical malpractice litigation.
Judge Hanks graduated summa cum laude from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics, attended Harvard Law School and was an editor of the Harvard Blackletter Law Journal. Upon graduation, he served as a law clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Sim Lake. He later received his Master of Laws degree from Duke University School of Law. Judge Hanks is a member of the American Law Institute and the American Board of Trial Advocates. He is a published legal author and lecturer at continuing judicial education seminars throughout the country.
Another featured STCL Houston graduate was Heaven Smith.
Smith will join the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the U.S. Army in the fall. This highly coveted position will allow her to fulfill her dream of serving in the military while handling all manner of legal issues. Smith was the 2021-22 president of the Black Law Students Association, coordinated a highly successful Black Law Students Association gala, and served as a Langdell Scholar and a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board.