WILLIAMS, MARY PEARL HALL (1928 ~ 2012). The following is an obituary for Judge Mary Pearl Williams. It was published in the February 26, 2012 edition of the Austin American Statesman.
The first woman judge in Travis County, Judge Mary Pearl (Hall) Williams passed away on February 22, 2012. She was born on January 12, 1928, to Marvin and Theo Mae (Kethley) Hall, in Brownsville, Texas, where Marvin was Cameron County Attorney. The family, including her younger brother, Jack Raymond Hall, moved to Austin in 1935, when Marvin became Fire Insurance Commissioner of Texas.
Mary Pearl was an energetic tomboy, leading neighborhood games, enjoying all sports, and in her senior year, was chosen Queen of Austin High School. Mary Pearl attended The University of Texas undergraduate and law school, where she obtained both a B.A., with Honors, and a J.D. (1949) within five years. She then began her legal career as an Assistant Attorney General of Texas, 1949-1950. She married the love of her life, and U.T. Law School professor and later Fifth Circuit Judge, Jerre Stockton Williams (deceased), in 1950.
Taking time out from her legal career while her three children were young, she focused on civic and community work, including serving on the Boards of Directors of the Salvation Army, the United Way, the Junior League, and Court Appointed Special Advocates. She organized the Austin Chapter of Save the Children Federation, and was active in many other organizations, including the League of Women Voters, the University of Texas Faculty Wives, Travis County Women Lawyers Association, the Heritage Society, Austin Women’s Political Caucus, Pan-American Round Table, Kappa Alpha Theta Alumnae, among others. She maintained memberships in the Austin Assembly, the Headliners’ Club, the Austin Club, Austin Woman’s Club, PEO and various other organizations.
Her distinguished judicial career began in the summer of 1964, when the Austin City Council appointed her to be the first “relief judge” for the Municipal Court. In 1966-67, she was a part-time Instructor in the U.T. Government Department, and at the same time was a Consultant to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, in Washington, DC, appointed by the Secretary of HEW, John V. Gardner. The following year, when the family moved to Washington D.C., Mary Pearl served as an Attorney in the Office of Emergency Preparedness, in the Executive Office of the President, and served in that office from 1968 to 1970, when the family moved back to Austin.
For the next several years, she served as a Consultant to that office, which included negotiating on-the-scene disputes following major natural disasters in Lubbock, Corpus Christi, Los Angeles, and Miami. She was called to Washington to help draft procedural regulations for the President’s Wage and Price Stabilization Program, August, 1971; and to conduct a training course for Civil Rights Compliance Officers. She drafted the agreement between the OEP and the American Bar Association concerning emergency legal services in disaster situations.
From 1973 to 1980, Mary Pearl served as Judge of Travis County Court-at-Law No. 2. Appointed by Travis County Commissioners to serve an unexpired term, she was elected without opposition in either political party in 1974 and 1978. She was elected Presiding Judge in 1976, and took the lead in establishing the first court administration program in Travis County, which began in January, 1977. That program won national recognition as the “Best Court Administration Program of a Misdemeanor Docket” in 1980, from the National Association of Counties. Mary Pearl served as Judge of the 53rd Judicial District Court in Travis County from 1981 to 2000. She was elected to this judgeship without opposition in either political party five times: 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, and 1996.
During those years, she received many legal profession honors, including Life Fellow of the American Bar Association, Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation, Membership in the invitation-only American Law Institute, appointment by the Texas Supreme Court to its first Judicial Planning Committee, and appointment by Governor Dolph Briscoe to the Texas Governor’s Conference on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals. She also served on numerous committees of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas, and the Travis County Bar Association.
A great deal of Mary Pearl’s time was spent serving her beloved University United Methodist Church. She served on the Administrative Board, the Board of Trustees, the Worship Commission, and the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee. She was the Speaker for the Church’s first annual Women’s Retreat, and delivered the Laity Sermon in 1990. She also preached Laity Sermons at Wesley United Methodist Church and Central Christian Church. She taught Vacation Bible School, and served as a Lay Reader.
Mary Pearl’s parents, husband, and brother pre-deceased her. She is survived by her son, the Rev. Jerre Stockton Williams, Jr., and wife, Leslie, of Kerrville, Texas; by her daughter, Shelley Hall Williams Austin, and husband, the Rev. James, of Austin; and her daughter, Stephanie Kethley Williams Laden, and husband, Larry, of Austin. And she is survived by six grandchildren: Jerre S. Williams, III, (wife, Jessica), and Caroline Williams, of Kerrville; John Austin and Will Austin of Austin; and Keathley Laden and Daniel Laden, of Austin; and by several great-grandchildren. They will all very much miss the enthusiasm, vitality, humor, and above all, love, of their much-loved Mary Pearl, whom they called, following her husband, “Impy.”
Shelley Furr Nelson of Lubbock and Nancy Dukek of Maplewood, NJ; and by several wonderful great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews. They will very much miss her enthusiasm, vitality, and wit. They will cherish memories of their beloved Mary Pearl, whom they called "Impy," the nickname given by her husband. They will remember happy summer trips together hiking in Estes Park, Colorado.
A memorial service celebrating her life will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Monday, March 5, 2012 at the University United Methodist Church, 2409 Guadalupe, Austin, TX 78705, with a reception following at the church. Parking is available at the Platinum parking lot at 25th and Guadalupe. Visitation will be held on March 4 from 4 to 6:00 p.m. at Weed-Corley-Fish, 3125 North Lamar, Austin, 78705. Graveside services will be held at the Texas State Cemetery at 12:30 p.m. on March 5. Pallbearers will be Judge Williams's six grandchildren. Honorary pallbearers will be her esteemed colleagues, the judges of Travis County, past and present, and Barbara Ruud, her lifelong friend. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to University United Methodist Church, to the Mary Pearl Williams Scholarship created in 2001 by the Travis County Women Lawyers Association, or to the charity of donor's choice. The family is grateful for the faithful, caring presence of her friends and for the excellent care given by the nurses and aides at Westminster Health Care and Hospice Austin.