The Virgil C. Lott Medal
In 2011, the University of Texas School of Law established the Virgil C. Lott Medal to honor our first African American graduate. The medal is presented every other year at a gala dinner, and recipients are chosen by a distinguished committee headed by Dean Ward Farnsworth, former Dean Larry Sager, and previous winners. Dean Farnsworth describes the mission of the award and ceremony thusly: “Virgil C. Lott, ‘53 was the first African American graduate of The University of Texas School of Law. The Law School commissioned the Virgil C. Lott Medal to honor the memory of this pioneer and distinguished alumnus. This award honors men and women who, like Mr. Lott, have made significant contributions to the legal profession and to the improvement of understanding among all peoples.”
In 2017, this award will be bestowed upon Myra McDaniel, Class of 1975, and Texas’ first African American Secretary of State. Mrs. McDaniel, who passed away in 2010, will be represented at the ceremony by her family, who will accept the posthumous award in her honor.
Previous recipients of the Virgil C. Lott Medal are: Former Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court Wallace B. Jefferson, Class of 1988, who received the medal in 2011; Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis, Class of 1979, who was honored in 2013; and, the Hon. Ron Kirk, Class of 1979, former Mayor of Dallas and the U.S. Trade Representative from 2009 to 2013. Mr. Kirk was awarded the medal in 2015.
About Myra McDaniel
Myra McDaniel, the first African American secretary of state in Texas, made her job seem effortless, said the former governor who appointed her.
“She had a steadiness that was reassuring and a confidence based on her intellect,” said Gov. Mark White, who selected her for the position in 1984.
“She always said ‘We’ve got to see our opportunities as opportunities and not as burdens,’ ” once noted her husband, Reuben McDaniel Jr.
Myra McDaniel passed away in 2010, having worked for many years after her work for Texas as an attorney for the Austin law firm Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta LLP. Her husband passed away in 2016.
Gov. White said he chose McDaniel, then a former assistant attorney general, to become secretary of state because he knew she could do the job, and because, “Myra commanded the respect of all those acquainted with her, not because she demanded it but because she earned it.”
“She liked making things possible,” said her husband.
At the time of her passing, then-Gov. Rick Perry observed that McDaniel “personified the Texas tradition of dedication to her community, from editing her church newsletter all the way to serving as Texas Secretary of State.”.
McDaniel was a board member of many organizations, including St. Edward’s University, Seton Hospital and the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest. She also served as counsel for Austin Community College and outside counsel for Capital Metro. She became managing partner of the law firm, then known as Bickerstaff, Heath, Smiley, Pollan, Kever and McDaniel, in 1995.
“As a woman and an African American, you have a lot of pride in being able to say that you can do what everybody else does, that you didn’t bump into the glass ceiling and that you have the opportunity to fully utilize your talents,” McDaniel said in a 1995 interview with the Austin American-Statesman.
About Virgil C. Lott
In 1953, Virgil Lott became the first African American graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. Born in Austin, Texas, he graduated from Anderson High School and earned his undergraduate degree in business administration from Samuel Huston College (now Huston-Tillotson University) in 1949. Mr. Lott served with valor in the United States Army during World War II in England, France, and Belgium.
Mr. Lott was also a pioneer in the legal profession. He was instrumental in devising the legal justification for the development of multi-family housing for low-income families under the Federal Housing Administration’s insured loan programs. Mr. Lott was the first African American ever to sit on the bench of a court in Austin.
Mr. Lott was also well known for his civic leadership. He was the founding president of the Capital City Lions Club, and he served as finance chairman of the Eagles division, Boy Scouts of America. He served as attorney for David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, and as an advisor to St. Joseph Grand Masonic Lodge; in both of these roles, he worked to expand the availability of affordable housing to low- and moderate-income families.
Mr. Lott’s strong sense of duty, devotion to his community and country, and respect for his fellow human beings earned him the admiration and friendship of a host of civic leaders, business and professional associates, and all who had the privilege of knowing him in his too-short life.
The Virgil C. Lott Medal honors those who, like its namesake, serve the interests of our society with integrity and who, by word and deed, reflect our better selves.