THE HEART OF BEXAR COUNTY
RESTORATION OF THE BEXAR COUNTY COURTHOUSE
BY NELSON AND TRACY WOLFF
THE HEART OF
Restoration of the
Bexar County Courthouse
by Nelson and Tracy Wolff
THE HEART OF BEXAR COUNTY is a publication of The Hidalgo Foundation.
A division of Ledge Media
San Antonio, Texas
Copyright © 2020 HPNbooks
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, without permission in writing
from the publisher. All inquiries should be addressed to HPNbooks, 11535 Galm Road, Suite 101, San Antonio, Texas, 78254. Phone (800) 939-5311, www.hpnbooks.com.
Library of Congress Card Catalog Number: 2019954563
THE HEART OF BEXAR COUNTY—Restoration of the Bexar County Courthouse
layout and cover design:
contributing writer for “Sharing the Heritage”:
Christopher D. Sturdevant
publisher, chief executive officer and president:
Christopher D. Sturdevant
Kristin T. Williamson
2 ✦ T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
B e x a r C o u n t y C o m m i s s i o n e r C o u r t F 3
I. EVOLUTION OF THE CITY HALL AND THE COURTHOUSE .................................8
RESTORATION OF CITY HALL AND THE MUNICIPAL PLAZA BUILDING.................14
III. THE DECLINE OF THE COURTHOUSE ...................................................................18
IV. THE HIDALGO FOUNDATION ................................................................................23
V. THE FIRST PHASE, THE EXTERIOR .......................................................................27
VI. THE CHILDREN’S COURT ............................................................................30
THE FIRST RESTORED COURTROOM..............................................................34
VIII. THE COURTYARD AND MAIN PLAZA .............................................................37
IX. LADY JUSTICE ...........................................................................................40
X. THE DOUBLE HEIGHT COURTROOM..............................................................45
XI. THE REMOVAL OF THE GONDECK ADDITIONS ...............................................51
XII. BEXAR COUNTY ARCHIVES BUILDING ...........................................................56
XIII. BEXAR COUNTY HERITAGE CENTER ............................................................60
XIV. CONCLUSION ............................................................................................65
4 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
ABOUT THE AUTHORS ..........................................................................................66
A. ARCHITECTS & CONTRACTORS ...............................................................68
B. RESTORATION AWARDS ...........................................................................69
C. HILDALGO FOUNDATION FUNDRAISING ....................................................70
D. BEXAR COUNTY ORGANIZATION CHART ...................................................72
E. HISTORICAL COMMISSION.......................................................................73
T a b l e o f C o n t e n t s F 5
Architectural drawing of the Courthouse.
6 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
For the last 17 years, as a consultant and then director of the Bexar County Heritage Department,
I have devoted a large part of my time to the restoration of our courthouse. I was educated, trained
and prepared for the job, but I could not have succeeded without Nelson and Tracy’s tenacity and
determination to meet all challenges to complete the work.
And it was not easy. I was threatened with contempt by a few of the Civil District Judges when
they did not like some of our decisions. Nelson stood up to defend me and pushed the projects
forward. When the projects were concluded, these same judges who previously criticized me
then complimented our work. We have won 23 awards for design, construction, and restoration of
Together Nelson and Tracy have creative ideas, a can do/why not attitude, a strategic political
barometer; an internal gyroscope that unfailing directs them to do the right thing. It has been an
honor, challenging, and fun working with them. I have been blessed professionally and personally
to be on their team.
We are all our best when our best is expected of us. We gave it our best and have restored San
Antonio’s greatest historical structure. For generations to come our citizens of all ages, backgrounds,
and beliefs will be proud of our county’s heritage when they come to see this magnificent building
that represents Bexar County.
Betty Bueche, 2018
F o r e w o r d F 7
E V O L U T I O N O F C I T Y H A L L
A N D T H E C O U R H O U S E
by Tracy Wolff
The north side of Main Plaza, 1849,
by former Bexar County
Commissioner W. G. M. Samuel
County and city government offices have always been located in historic civic center buildings in
San Antonio near Plaza De las Islas (Main Plaza). The plaza was formed in 1731, when 19 families
from the Spanish Canary Islands came to San Antonio to create our first city government. They
surrounded the plaza with their homes and in 1734 they laid the corner stone of San Fernando
Cathedral on the west side of the plaza.
Eight years later in 1742, they built Casa Reales as the first permanent governmental structure in
San Antonio. It was a one-story adobe structure with dirt floors located on the southeast corner of
Plaza de las Islas. It was rebuilt in 1779 by Don Jose Antonio Curbelo, Alcalde de Villa San Fernando
de Bexar. In 1783 a jail was built behind it. Both the city and county shared Casa Reales.
8 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
For 108 years, Casa Reales was the scene of
numerous violent actions. They used a whipping
post to punish people. In 1840, a deadly fight
broke out between representatives of the Texas
government and the Comanche nation.
On September 6, 1850 construction started on
a new City-County building in Military Plaza, one
block west of Casa Reales. It was a two-story
masonry building with a hipped roof. A district
courtroom was located on the second floor. It
became known as the “Bat Cave,” because a large
colony of bats roosted in the roof rafters and often
disrupted government business. A new jail was
built in the walled yard behind the Bat Cave.
Top, left: East Side of Main Plaza
by former Bexar County
Commisioner W. G. M. Samuel,
showing Casa Reales, the first Bexar
COURTESY OF BEXAR COUNTY AND THE
Top, right: The French Building—
1859 on Plaza de las Islas and
Left: “The Bat Cave”—1851 on
Military Plaza, Bexar County’s second
courthouse, also housed City.
COPIED FROM A STEREOGRAPH BY ALEX V.
LATOURETTE. COURTESY OF THE SAN ANTONIO
CONSERVATION SOCIETY AND THE INSTITUTE OF
TEXAN CULTURES AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS
AT SAN ANTONIO.
C h a p t e r I F 9
Above: Bottom, right: The Masonic
Below: 1681 Courthouse Old
In 1868, the city and county moved into the
French building on Dwyer Street at the southeast
corner of Plaza de las Islas. The building once was
the regional headquarters of the Confederacy. The
jail remained next to the Bat Cave.
In 1872, the Commissioners Court decided
to separate from the city and purchased the
three-story Masonic Building on Soledad Street,
one half block from the plaza and just north of
the French Building. It had previously housed
the original Alamo Lodge No. 44 A.F. and A.M.,
the oldest Masonic Lodge in Texas.
In 1878, the county built a new jail on
Cameron Street, a block north of the current
city hall. The two-story limestone structure
1 0 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
housed a wooden scaffold used as the gallows.
In 1911, two stories were added along with
Spanish style Bell Towers. The last hanging
occurred in 1923 when the state took over
executions using an electric chair. In 1926 it
was expanded to five floors. The building still
stands today and has been converted into
Casa Reales, the Bat Cave, the French
building, and the Masonic building have all
been lost to time. The only remaining partial
structure left is the original south wall of Casa
Reales that now stands as part of a building on
the southeast side of the plaza.
In the place of these former seats of local
government, the City of San Antonio built a new
city hall in 1885 and the County built a new
courthouse in 1892. These two historic
buildings are still standing near the plaza and
have been in continuous use ever since.
Bryan Callaghan Jr., who was elected mayor
in 1885, was a shrewd politician. He created a
political machine that demanded loyalty to him
and enabled him to build city hall, expand city
services, modernize the police and fire
departments and build a major sewer system.
Constructed in 1885, the three-story City
Hall is located on Flores Street, just one block
west of Main Plaza. This site is where the
Spaniards in 1718 built the presidio when they
first settled in San Antonio. San Pedro Creek
flows on the back side of City Hall.
City Hall was a small, renaissance revival
jewel of a building with an ornate octagonal
tower and dome with a clock centered on top of
the roof. Alternating round and square turreted
towers were constructed on the four corners of
Above: Cornerstone for the Bexar
Below: City Hall, 1892.
C h a p t e r I F 1 1
Architect’s Drawing of the Bexar
In the 1920s city officials did significant
damage to the 1885 renaissance revival City
Hall. They removed the tower and octagonal
dome and four turrets tower that set atop
City Hall. They then added a non-descript
In 1891, the County decided to build a new
courthouse because they had gained substantial
new responsibilities and authority under the
1876 state constitution and needed more space.
The state constitution charged the county with
building a courthouse, maintaining roads and
bridges, administering public welfare programs,
coordinating elections, setting a tax rate, issuing
bonds, and adopting a county budget. A 5-
member Commissioners Court was charged
with managing and setting policy for the county.
With its new responsibilities it was clear that a
new courthouse was needed.
The Commissioners Court purchased land on
the south side of Main Plaza from Joseph Dwyer
and John Kampmann. Architect J. Riley Gordon
and D. E. Laub were chosen by the Court to
design the Courthouse.
The groundbreaking was held on August 4,
1891. County Judge Samuel W. McAllister, laid
the cornerstone on December 17, 1892. Samuel
is the grandfather of Walter W. McAllister who
served as mayor from 1961 to 1971.
In the same year that the corner stone was
laid, Callaghan resigned as mayor and
successfully ran for county judge. For the next
five years from 1892 to 1897 he oversaw the
construction of the four-story Romanesque
1 2 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
Revival Style Courthouse, located just one block
away from city hall.
Unlike city hall, the courthouse was a large
grand building, built with Texas granite and
Pecos red sandstone and red clay roof tiles. The
Bexar County Courthouse included roundedarch
windows and doorways reflecting the
Victorian style. It had carved surfaces and a
The courthouse is entered by ascending
spacious granite steps, with immense granite
columns and bronze lamps on each side, to a
platform floored in marble with granite
balustrades. Two corner towers flank the front of
the Courthouse. The northeast tower is 134-feet
high and topped by a beehive dome and wrapped
in observation decks. The other is a rectangular
shape with an observation deck and a hipped roof.
When it opened on January 27, 1897 the
magnificent structure symbolized the principles
of liberty, justice and independence as well as
the hope and pride of Bexar County. It was the
grandest building in San Antonio, and still is.
Nelson and I believe that historic buildings
embody human thoughts, aspirations and beliefs
that evolve over generations. We are a part of the
buildings as much as the physical structure itself.
We believe our community should be judged by
how we take care of historic buildings, especially
public buildings that define the evolution of our
But sadly, over the years, our community has
let time and neglect do significant damage to
both city hall and our courthouse. When Nelson
became mayor in 1991 and then county judge in
2001, we were determined to restore these
neglected historic treasures. The restoration
would remind our citizens of their historical roots
and help them to better determine our future.
Nelson is the first person to serve as both
Mayor and County Judge since Mayor Callaghan
100 years earlier. Nelson also followed in
Callaghan’s footsteps when he first led the effort to
restore city hall as well as the historic city
municipal building located on Main Street across
from the west side of Main Plaza.
Below: The Bexar County Courthouse
(left) and the San Fernando
C h a p t e r 1 F 1 3
R E S T O R A T I O N O F C I T Y H A L L A N D T H E
M U N I C I P A L P L A Z A B U I L D I N G
by Nelson Wolff
Front view of the San Fernando
Cathedral (left) and the historic
Municipal Plaza Building (right).
The historic Municipal Plaza Building on Main Plaza was originally the Frost Bank Building.
The 12-story building was completed in 1922. It included a grand three-story high bank lobby
with a mezzanine, an ornamental plaster ceiling, cast stone arcades, a marble stairway and Tiffany
lights. In 1973, Frost Bank moved to their newly constructed 22-story tower located a block away
on Houston Street.
Under the leadership of Mayor Henry Cisneros and City Manager Lou Fox the city purchased the
Frost Bank Building in 1986, the year before I became a member of the city council. City offices were
located in the top 10 floors and Luby’s Cafeteria continued to occupy the former bank lobby under
a lease agreement that they had with Frost Bank.
I had lunch several times in the cafeteria until it closed in 1989. Luby’s left abandoned equipment
and dangling electrical wires strung throughout the facility.
After being elected mayor in 1991, I asked City Manager Alex Briseno and City Architect Tim
Palomera to join me in a walk through the former bank lobby to determine if it could be converted
into a City Council Chamber. The present council chamber was a small cramped, dungeon like space
located in city hall.
1 4 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
While we were dismayed about the condition
of the former bank lobby, we could see how it
could be turned into a stunning council
chamber. I asked Alex to come up with a plan
for the new public space.
Six months after taking office we had a plan
ready for the new chamber. In October 1991 the
City Council gave preliminary approval to the
plan then approved the final drawings along
with funding on a 9-2 vote in November 1992.
Over the next two years as construction and
restoration was underway, I made numerous
trips to observe the exciting transformation.
During one of my surveys of the space, I took
members of the Conservation Society with me.
President Inell Schooler told me they had 24
portraits of former mayors, one of which was
Mayor Bryan Callaghan.
I went with Inell and other conservation
members to a warehouse where the paintings
were stored. They said they would give them to
the city to hang in the hallway leading to the new
Council Chamber and they also would donate
$10,000 to have them restored. Paintings of later
mayors would also be hung in the hallway.
One and a half years after work had begun on
the council chamber, we had a grand opening
on May 19, 1994. The council chamber
included 252 seats, and room for another 200
people in the mezzanine. The original
ornamental ceiling that featured floral
medallions was restored. Damaged cast stone
and marble finishes were repaired, and the
beautiful historic Tiffany lights were rewired
and restored. The historic marble stairway that
had led to the basement was moved and reinstalled
to reach the mezzanine. A small
conference room and as a large meeting room
where city council could have work sessions
were built, as well as offices for staff.
View of the mezzanine with restored
ceiling and Tiffany lights inside the
San Antonio City Council Chamber.
C h a p t e r 1 I F 1 5
San Antonio City Council Chamber.
Hundreds of people attended the grand
opening, many of them standing in the mezzanine
looking down on the city council chamber. Tom
Frost, president of Frost Bank, spoke of the pride
he felt for this historic space. I stated that this
chamber was built for citizens, and hoped they
would all take pride in it. Hundreds of receptions,
task force meetings, and commission meetings in
addition to council meetings would be held in the
chambers over the years.
While work began on the council chambers,
we began addressing the crumbling walls of city
hall. Concurrent with the work on the new
council chamber we began work on a $4 million
restoration of the exterior walls of City Hall. We
also built a media center and conference room
where the old city council chamber was located.
We completed the restoration of the exterior
walls in 1995, before I was term limited out of
office. In 2018, the city began work on restoring
the interior of City Hall.
While restoration work was underway, in
1992 I appointed a seven-member task force,
chaired by June Reedy, to come up with a plan
to revive our historic civic center, from the river
east of the plaza west to El Mercado.
Completed in October 1993, the historic
civic center plan called for a pedestrian
walkway from the river, through the plaza
and City Hall grounds, across San Pedro
Creek to El Mercado. The plan envisioned a
major water element to connect Main Plaza
to the River, a renovation of the plaza,
restoring historic buildings, replacing San
Fernando Rectory, and closing Trevino Street
between City Municipal building and San
During my term we closed Trevino Street
and turned it into a plaza connecting the
Cathedral and the Municipal Plaza building.
We bought a parking lot adjacent to the river
across Soledad Street from the plaza that could
eventually be a link to the river. It would be up
to future mayors to build a park entrance to the
river and to restore the plaza. We will visit that
1 6 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
Restored original ornamental ceiling
that featured floral medallions in the
City Council Chamber.
C h a p t e r 1 I F 1 7
T H E D E C L I N E O F T H E C O U R T H O U S E
by Tracy Wolff
Above and opposite page: Before and
after photos showing the exterior
deterioration of the Bexar County
courthouse and the work done to
rapair the damage.
Two historic additions to the courthouse were added in a tasteful manner, keeping true to the
original design of the 1897 courthouse. In 1914, a three-story addition to the south was built and
finished in 1915. In 1926, the 1914 addition was partially removed and rebuilt to include five
stories. A new green S-shaped tile roof was built. Work was completed in 1928.
Both additions kept the same architectural style and materials. It is hard to tell where one addition
began, and another left off. The courthouse now covered one full block, stretching south from Main
Plaza to Nueva Street, and flanked on the east by Soledad Street and on the west by Main Street.
But the Commissioners Court lost their way in 1963 when they authorized the building of a 9,000
square foot windowless second-story addition to the west side of the Courthouse. In 1972, they
compounded their mistake when they added a five-story, 38,000 square foot windowless granite slab
addition on the southwest side of the building. Both additions covered up numerous windows and the
beautiful Pecos sandstone of the courthouse.
1 8 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
C h a p t e r 1 I I F 1 9
2 0 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
Additional before and after photos
showing the exterior deterioration of
the courthouse and the work done to
rapair the damage.
C h a p t e r I I 1 F 2 1
Both designs were ill conceived, misguided,
and architecturally inappropriate. Both violated
the height, material and the historical character
of the courthouse.
Over the years, interior modifications also did
significant harm to historic features of the
courthouse. Ornate ceilings were covered up
with dropped ceiling tiles. Floors were covered
with asbestos tiles. Large arch windows were
partially covered over. In 1967, the original
1897 30-foot high courtroom was divided in half
when a floor was added and another courtroom
was built above it.
In addition to the remodeling mistakes, the
electrical, air conditioning and plumbing
systems were out of date and the exterior walls
and balconies were water damaged and
crumbling. Urban pollution did great harm and
nasty pigeon droppings caused additional
damage. When mixed with rain, it became acid
and ate away at the sandstone. Guano from bats
had accumulated in the towers on both ends of
the courthouse. The basement was damp
because of continuous rainwater that flowed
into the basement.
With misguided additions, poor remodeling
and neglect, the courthouse was in bad shape.
The 1998 National Trust annual list of most
endangered historic resources included the
Bexar County Courthouse, along with other
historic courthouses throughout Texas.
Texas Governor George W. Bush, during his
campaign for re-election in 1998, promised he
would advocate for funding to restore Texas’
historic courthouses. He was re-elected and
fulfilled his promise by setting up a $50 million
fund to be administered by the Texas Historical
Commission. They set up a policy that required
local matching funds and a master plan in order
to be eligible for funding.
In response to the Texas Historical
Commission, Bexar County Judge Cyndi Krier
convinced the Commissioners Court in 1998 to
do an assessment of the courthouse and then
prepare a courthouse master plan. The Court
contracted with 3D/International and they hired
Betty Bueche to do the assessment and develop
the master plan. At the time, Betty was working
in Denver where she had developed a master
plan to restore the Colorado Brown Stone
historic 1890s Social Club.
A San Antonio native, Betty has an
undergraduate degree in fine art and biology
from Incarnate Word College and a Master
of Architecture degree from UT Austin. She
had also been a Conservation Society member
Two years later in January 2000, she
presented the historic preservation plan to the
Commissioners Court. The plan turned out to
be bit more than what the Commissioners Court
bargained for. It was estimated to cost as much
as $59 million.
It was expensive because of the damage and
neglect of the building, as well as misguided
remodeling projects over the years. Three million
people a year come through the courthouse
creating a lot of wear and tear.
The master plan provided for the restoration
of the exterior, ten historic courtrooms and four
corridors that span the length of the
courthouse. It also called for new elevators, a
new air-conditioning system, electrical and
plumbing repairs and upgrading technology.
Two other aspects of the plan proved to be
controversial. One called for the restoration of
the original two-story courtroom that had been
sliced in two in 1967 when a floor was added to
accommodate the 285th District courtroom.
The second proposal was even more
controversial. The plan provided options
for dealing with the 1963 and 1972 additions
to the courthouse that failed to match the
building’s original architecture. One option
was to add windows, another to create a
fake façade, and the best was to remove the
two additions. But no one on the court was
willing to undertake that task or even seriously
But there was one element of the plan that
clearly needed to begin as soon as possible—the
exterior of the courthouse was in sad shape.
Pieces of the tiled turrets and towers had
actually fallen off. Scaffolding was installed to
protect the public from further fallen pieces
Even though there were reservations about
the plan, the Commissioners Court accepted the
master plan, forwarded it to the Historical
Commission, and applied for a grant to restore
the exterior walls. This is where Nelson and I
came into the picture.
2 2 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
T H E H I D A L G O F O U N D A T I O N
by Tracy Wolff
On May 8, 2001, Nelson was appointed by
the Commissioners Court to become County
Judge after Judge Cyndi Krier stepped down
and accepted an appointment to the University
of Texas-Board of Regents. He was ready to take
on the task of restoring the courthouse.
Nelson first sat down with Betty Bueche, who
had created the courthouse restoration plan. After
going over the information in the plan he quickly
realized that it would take several years to
complete. He would have to commit and run
successfully for re-election several times if he were
to finish the restoration.
He asked me to raise money from the private
sector to help pay for some of the restoration. I
commented that I would consider creating a
foundation to help with the restoration, but
reminded him that my main focus has always been children issues. And so that evening, the Hidalgo
Foundation of Bexar County and its three main goals were born: restoration, children’s issues, and education.
I had a long history of supporting children. I had served on the Workforce Commission and chaired
the committee on childcare. When Nelson was mayor, I started the first Library Telethon on KENS5 TV
to benefit the Library Foundation. Over the years the telethon has raised thousands of dollars for the
library. I also helped raise over $5 million for the construction of the new downtown library.
I co-founded “Smart Start” and raised millions of dollars for upgrading childcare centers and
providing additional training for childcare workers. “Smart Start” is now a fund in the San Antonio
Nelson informed me that the courthouse had a children’s court handling child abuse and neglect cases, but
their space was terribly inadequate. The judges felt the current courtroom could not meet the needs of our
most vulnerable children. Although it was not in the master plan, he suggested that I make it the centerpiece.
Above: Tracy Wolff speaking at
the Hidalgo Foundation Gala on
Oct 09, 2014.
C h a p t e r 1 V F 2 3
2 4 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
In Nelson’s opening remarks to the Court on
May 8, 2001, he said he studied the master plan
and met with Betty and Andres Andujar with 3-
D International. He also mentioned that I would
create a foundation and raise private money for
the restoration of the courthouse with the
County matching 2-1. I like those odds.
Nelson was not afraid to support the most
controversial parts of the plan; the dismantling
of the 1963 and 1972 additions to the
courthouse and the restoration of the original
two-story courtroom. I agreed with him. At the
time, neither one of us realized how
controversial it would be and how long it would
take to accomplish it. Today we know, it took
over 17 years.
Meanwhile I began moving forward with the
necessary paperwork to create the Hidalgo
Foundation. I named the foundation after the
noble title given by the King of Spain to the
Canary Islanders who came to San Antonio in
1731. The Commissioners Court have also
adopted the Hidalgo Certificate as its highest
recognition of a citizen for their contribution to
The Hidalgo Foundation’s first task was to raise
funds for the restoration of the courthouse exterior.
Opposite page, top: Tracy Wolff at the
opening of BiblioTech South.
Opposite page, bottom: Bexar County
Commissioners Court Hidalgo
Above: Donor Board for the Bexar
County Courthouse Restoration,
Left: Tracy Wolff.
C h a p t e r 1 V F 2 5
2 6 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
T H E F I R S T P H A S E , T H E E X T E R I O R
by Tracy Wolff
Tracy Wolff climbing to the top of the
courthouse during the exterior
In 2001, Nelson’s first year as county judge, the Commissioners Court received a grant in the amount
of $2.6 million from the Texas Historical Commission to restore the exterior of the courthouse. The
grant was received in response to an application submitted by former County Judge Cyndi Krier.
Betty Bueche was assigned by 3D/International to begin the design work. It took one year to complete
plan. 3/D International then retained Betty to act as the construction manager agent. To supervise the
work, Betty moved into a small construction trailer that we located on the grounds. Bid packages were
C h a p t e r V F 2 7
Bexar County Courthouse.
submitted for masonry, electrical, painting, and
Work began in February of 2002. After the
scaffolding was installed, Nelson and I climbed
up to the top of the courthouse to view the work
that was in progress. We got to see first-hand
and up-close the damage that had been done
to the Pecos red sandstone, the terra cotta and
Almost immediately I was able to raise
$300,000 from the San Antonio Conservation
Society. They were concerned about the historic
courthouse and were glad that it would be
Over the next year, 509 windows were
restored. The chipped-off pieces of sandstone
and terra cotta were repaired, as well as all
the cast-iron railings. The project was
completed in 2002. Texas Construction
Magazine gave us an award of excellence in
the Public Renovation/Restoration category.
Betty Bueche could now see that Nelson and
I were committed to completing the restoration
of the courthouse. So, she accepted an invitation
to come to work for the county full time. Over
the next 16 years, she would play the leading
role in the restoration. We are forever grateful
While I continued successfully over the years to
raise funds for all three goals of the Hidalgo
Foundation, my first major project remained my
priority—raising funds to build the children’s court.
2 8 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
Texas Historical Commission
historical marker for the Bexar
C h a p t e r V F 2 9
T H E C H I L D R E N ’ S C O U R T
by Tracy Wolff
Above: Special room created for
Right: Children’s court Judge
A few days after Nelson’s first opening speech
as County Judge in May 2001, we toured the
courthouse with Betty Bueche. On the second
floor-hallway we saw people with children
crowded around the entrance to a very small
room. Walking through the crowd, we entered a
cramped courtroom where child abuse and
neglect cases were heard.
Families with their children, representatives of
social agencies, and officials with Child Protective
Services jammed the small space. Three lawyers sat
at a table—one representing the parents, another
the child, and a third from the Attorney General’s
office, representing the state. After hearing
testimony, Associate Judge Peter Sakai would
decide whether to terminate parental rights.
3 0 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
On seeing the conditions of the court, I said,
“This is an awful and very dangerous condition.
You can feel tremendous tension in the air. I’m
appalled, from my work with children, at the
conditions of this court. I will make this court
Soon after our tour, Betty and I met with
District Judge John Specia and Associate Judge
Sakai. Judge Specia had hired Sakai in 1995 to
assist with the rising number of abuse and
neglect cases. They had great ideas and we
teamed up with them to begin planning a new
Betty later recommended to the Commissioners
Court that the court hire Susan Goltsman,
a leading consultant on children’s courts. The
court approved a contract with her. Goltsman
began meeting with constituent groups that
worked with the court on programming and space
needs. While the planning was underway, work on
the exterior continued.
Two months after we began planning, I had
lunch at the Palm restaurant with SBC Senior
Executive Vice President Cassandra Carr. Over
lunch I told her about the Hidalgo Foundation
and the established three goals. Cassandra
suggested that I submit a request to SBC for a
technology grant. I later presented a proposal to
the SBC Foundation for a $3-million grant.
A few weeks later in October at a fundraising
event for John Sharp, candidate for Lt.
Governor, Nelson and I saw SBC chairman Ed
Whitacre. We worked our way over to him and
I said, “Just making sure you know we made a
proposal to your foundation.”
He replied, “I know, but I can’t give you the
He paused and then said, “But I could give
you $2 million. Let’s shake hands on the deal.”
We shook hands and that sealed the deal.
Shaking hands on a deal reaches back to times
of honor and respect. Ed Whitacre is the kind of
man who makes big decisions and always
As I continued to raise dollars, Betty presented a
report to Commissioner Court and recommended
Top: Donor board showing the
contributions to the Children’s Court.
Above: Children’s Court Judge John
C h a p t e r V 1 F 3 1
Above: Children’s court Judge Richard
devoting 10,000 square feet of space for
two full courtrooms, an education and recreational
area for the children, two large conference
rooms, family visitation rooms, offices for
prosecutors and CPS staff, detention cells, and
most important a drug-testing clinic. The report
also recommended installing state-of-the-art
technology, including electronic evidence,
reporting, as well as video conferencing.
Nelson and I then met with District Clerk
Reagan Greer, who graciously agreed to the idea of
moving rows of records off the third floor of the
courthouse, so the children’s court complex could
be located there. Commissioners Court approved
the relocation and authorized hiring an architect.
Greer and his staff began moving a massive
number of documents off site. I will always be
grateful to Reagan for his insight and focus on the
importance of children in the greatest need.
Over the next year, architectural plans were
drawn for the Children’s Court. We began
construction in 2003 and I made several visits
to watch the courts take shape.
Two years later on January 14, 2005, we
opened the new Child Abuse and Neglect
Courts. The two courtrooms had ample space.
The conference rooms provided space for
families to privately meet with their lawyers.
Across the hallway we built offices for CPS staff,
the district attorney, and related social service
agencies and a special set of prisoner holding
cells that allowed visits between the prisoners
and their children when a judge deemed it
appropriate. Later Judge Sakai added two
additional children court judges, Richard Garcia
and Charles Montemayor.
A special room for children protected them
from the trauma of court proceedings. It was
decorated with furniture designed for children
as well as numerous toys and children books.
Judges could visit with them in this comfortable
surroundings. If a child’s testimony was
necessary, it could be transferred by video into
the courtroom. State-of-the-art technology
enabled judges to also use remote video
conferencing with experts or parents.
3 2 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
The project also included restoring historic
courtroom features such as the large arched
windows, historic doors, mission-style tile
floors, and marble wainscoting. In the corridor
near the children’s courts, workers removed the
drop ceiling tile, restored the original ceiling,
and uncovered partially hidden windows.
I went one step further. I wanted the
children to be comfortable as soon as they left
the elevator and entered the hallway. I was able
to convince Bruce Bugg Jr., chairman of the
Tobin Endowment, to provide $100,000 for art.
I had the pleasure of working with Linda Pace,
the wonderful creator of Artpace, as she
recommended many great artworks. Artists
Chuck Ramirez, Michael Velliquette, Juan
Miguel Ramos and Elizabeth Ward created 31
pieces of art for the walls along the corridor.
The drug-testing clinic provided weekly
testing for parents who had been addicted to
drugs. Perhaps not surprisingly, more than 80
percent of parents of abused and neglected
children are on drugs.
Building the children’s court cost $4.6
million. I raised $2.3 million in private funds
and Nelson had the Commissioners Court
supply the balance.
Martin Gruen, deputy director of the Center
for Legal and Court Technology and the
Courtroom 21 Project at the William and Mary
School of Law, delivered a special award
officially naming our children’s courts, “The
Model for the Nation.”
Judges now could now make timely and
informed decisions about abused and neglected
children. In many case the parent’s mental
health or drug problems are both are so severe
that the children have to be removed from their
parents. They are either placed with relatives or
in foster care.
Though we have completed the improvements
to the courts, I have continued to work with Judge
Sakai. We have established many innovative
programs to help children and their families.
Judge Sakai has continuously studied other
successful programs around our nation. He
discovered one of the most successful programs
in the nation, “The Early Intervention Program”
By adapting the program to the needs
of Bexar County children, we have now created
an early intervention program that focuses
on mothers with infants or toddlers 3 years old
or younger. The program deals with the mental
health needs of the mother, helping her bond
with her child. In 2016, I received a large grant
from the Santikos Foundation, the Baptist
Health Foundation, and Temple Beth-El for
Below: Children’s Court artwork by
C h a p t e r V 1 F 3 3
T H E F I R S T R E S T O R E D C O U R T R O O M
by Tracy Wolff
The 225th District Court after its
While we were building the children’s court and restoring the exterior of the courthouse, we
moved ahead with starting our first historic courtroom. On March 21, 2002, one year after Nelson
took office, I held a press conference in Judge John Specia’s 225th District Court to announce that
his courtroom would be our first restoration. The Courtroom was packed with judges, Hidalgo
Foundation members, Bexar County Commissioners and staff, and members of the community.
3 4 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
Before and after photos of the
73rd District Courtroom.
Over the next two years layers of paint were
stripped away allowing for the original color to
be revealed and restored. We removed the
dropped ceiling and restored the original
decorative plaster details and gold leaf ceiling. A
decorative cork floor was installed.
In addition, state-of-the-art technology was
installed. It included touch screen control panels,
giant plasma TV monitors, videoconferencing,
cameras and microphones. SBC vice president
John Montford had been instrumental in
negotiating the terms of the $2-million-dollar gift
to the Hidalgo Foundation. We used a portion of
the gift for the technology.
We also began work on locating and restoring
the historic furniture. The Hidalgo Foundation
contracted with Casagrande Appraisals to
complete the first ever inventory and appraisal of
all of the historic furniture. Seven hundred pieces
of furniture and artwork in the courthouse were
identified and each one tagged including jury
chairs, benches, tables made of oak and walnut,
and a huge safe built in 1885.
Some pieces of furniture had been damaged and
many had been painted over, hiding the original
C h a p t e r V I 1 F 3 5
Before and after restoration of the
131st District Courtroom.
beautiful wood. The Hidalgo Foundation raised an
additional $500,000 to restore the furniture.
County Clerk Gerry Rickhoff announced that his
office would put up a matching grant of $250,000.
Two years later in August 2004, we competed
Judge Specia’s courtroom and had restored the
historic furniture. The courtroom now looked like
it did when it was originally built. Judge Specia
gave demonstrations of how the new technology
worked. Witnesses could teleconference in and
judges and lawyers would have any information
they needed at their fingertips. It was a big step
forward in the administration of justice.
The following year on March 4, 2005, the
Hidalgo Foundation held its first ever gala in the
courthouse to thank our donors and show them
the work we had completed. We also displayed
numerous historic documents, including the
marriage contract between Jim Bowie and
Ursula Veramendi. Several pieces of restored
historic furniture were also displayed.
As the crowd gathered on the first floor, I gave
a short speech and unveiled a large beautifully
artistic wall board that listed all the major
contributors. I hope the next time you enter the
courthouse you will look at the many names and
foundations listed that contributed to the
courthouse restoration and to the children’s
courts. The generosity and support of these
individuals are a testament to the way Texans
honor their past and take care of future
generations. On behalf of the children and adults
that have benefited from the contributions, I
would like to say a heartfelt thank you!
We served food and drinks to hundreds of
people on the first three floors. We also took
them on a tour of the Children’s Court and the
restored 225th Court. The event that evening
was a great success, and everyone stayed and
enjoyed seeing the many improvements.
Subsequent to the restoration of Specia’s
courtroom, we have restored seven other
courtrooms and the original Court of Appeals
courtroom on the fifth floor. We also added five
new courtrooms. We have also restored four
public corridors leading to the courtrooms in
addition to installing new smoke/alarm
detection, sprinkler systems, HVAC, electrical,
IT and phone systems. The historic stairways
have also been restored and a new fire stair that
expands to the fifth floor was built.
3 6 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
T H E C O U R T Y A R D A N D M A I N P L A Z A
by Nelson Wolff
Courtyard fountain in front of the San Fernando Cathedral.
C h a p t e r V I I 1 F 3 7
In 1996 Father David Garcia, beloved former
rector of San Fernando Cathedral, worked with
my successor Mayor Bill Thornton to fund the
design for a park entrance to the river on the
land that we purchased when I was mayor. It
was located across Soledad Street from the
plaza. Mayor Howard Peak, who followed
Thornton in 1997, led the successful bond
campaign to construct the park entrance.
On a bright sunny Sunday afternoon of
October 7, 2001 Tracy and I joined Father
David Garcia and his parishioners to celebrate
the opening of the new park. Father David led
his congregation from San Fernando crossing
Main Street over to Main Plaza and then across
Soledad Street to the new river park entrance.
When they descended the stairs, Tracy and I
along with several other civic and government
leaders greeted them.
It was an environmentally attractive entrance
to the river. In the middle of the park, a stairway
of rough-hewn limestone rose up from the river
with landscaping on both sides. Six water features
were created along with inscriptions explaining
the history of river water use. San Antonio
Express News senior critic Mike Greenberg
described the park as “a place of extraordinary
delight, at once a contemplative evocation of
nature and history and a vibrant urban space.”
While we were pleased with the park
entrance, we knew that the restoration of Main
Plaza was a critical component of the 1992
historic civic center plan. Ed Garza, who was
elected mayor a couple of weeks after I became
county judge, wanted to move forward on
revitalizing Main Plaza. He convinced the City
Council to commission the architectural firm of
Lake-Flato to develop a plan for the plaza.
In May of 2003 Mayor Garza unveiled an $8.77
million plan. It provided for stone-paved sidewalks,
a new interactive central fountain, landscaping, 89
new trees, lighting, and new gravel paths. It also
called for enlarging to the plaza by taking in a
portion of Soledad Street and Main Avenue.
I told Garza that if the council moved
forward, I was interested in the county
participating with the city in restoring Main
Plaza because at one time it stretched across to
the courthouse. In the 1960s when Dolorosa
Street was realigned to bisect the plaza, it left us
a small sliver of Main Plaza as our front yard.
I told him I wanted the city to deed the front
yard to the county, allowing us to expand onto a
portion of Soledad and Main Street that was
located on the east and west sides of the
courthouse. I also asked the city to address our
basement flooding problems. I said I would seek
county funds if he was willing to accommodate
our requests. He was willing.
While the City Council liked the plan, they
did not like the high cost of the project. No one
on the council believed enough in the project to
Belwo: Courtyard view of Main Plaza.
3 8 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
seek an alternative plan to approve funding.
Mayor Garza abandoned the plan.
While the Plaza plan stalled, Father David
Garcia began renovating San Fernando
Cathedral. The foundation and structure of the
church was stabilized. The altar was moved to
the center of the church to enhance the
experience for Mass. The rectory was replaced
with a new building that housed a museum, gift
shop, and vesting sacristy.
Mayor Garza was succeeded by Phil
Hardberger in 2005, who had a greater vision
for the plaza. He told me he would like to close
all the streets around the plaza and create a
Mexican-style plaza. That meant closing the
east-west streets of Commerce and Dolorosa and
the north- south streets of Main and Soledad.
He asked me to be a partner with him to
make it happen, and I accepted, provided the
county’s requests were granted. Since he was
closing Main I asked him to also close the
section of Main Street that ran between our
courthouse and the Justice Center. He agreed to
the stipulations provided we put up $2.5
million. We had a deal.
Out of the four streets he wanted to close,
Main and Soledad were the most important.
Traffic on Main created pollution that was
damaging San Fernando Cathedral. Closing
Soledad would provide Main Plaza with a
connection to the park entrance.
In November 2005 Mayor Harberger went
public with his plan. He announced that Main
Plaza would be expanded with more trees and
grass planted, a tiled fountain would be
installed, along with walkways of crushed
granite and stone. He also revealed his proposal
to close all four streets adjacent to the park.
Closing Commerce and Dolorosa presented a
real traffic flow problem because they were the
major east-west corridors for downtown.
18,000 vehicles a day traveled down Commerce
and 13,800 on Dolorosa, an average of four
times more traffic than Main and Soledad.
After numerous public hearings, Mayor
Hardberger presented his plan before the
Commissioners Court on March 20, 2006. I had
spent the previous weekend calling the
Commissioners to ask them to be positive. I
explained the benefits we would receive from the
plan and that I thought that Hardberger would
eventually back off closing Commerce and
Dolorosa. The Commissioners approved the plan.
Two months later in early May, Hardberger
called me and said, “I have decided to leave
Commerce and Dolorosa open.”
I responded, “Brilliant decision.”
After Hardberger announced his compromise,
most opposition settled down. On June 8, I
appeared at City Council to testify for the plaza
plan. The council voted 9-2 to support the plan.
On September 20, 2006, the city’s Historic and
Design Review Commission voted to approve the
plan 12-1. The following Thursday, the City
Council voted to spend $350,000 to move the bus
stops on Main and Soledad to Flores Street
between Martin and Durango (now Cesar Chavez).
On October 10, San Antonio Public Works
Director Tom Wendorf presented the completed
Plaza plan to the Commissioners Court. The City
would deed us our front lawn, close Main Street
and a portion of Soledad and fix our flooding
problem. The Court supported the plan. I then
persuaded my colleagues to allocate $4 million to
enlarge our front courtyard, re-landscape, install
a historic fountain, and add benches.
With funding approval from the Commissioners
Court and City Council, work got under way in
early 2007. The Drury Hotel, located across the
river from park entrance, agreed to build a
pedestrian footbridge over the river. Also, Bruce
Bugg, president of the Tobin Endowment, pledged
$2 million to build five interactive fountains in
In April 2007, we held opening ceremonies
for Main Plaza. Overall the plaza was a great
success, creating walking, livable space in the
heart of our city. With the closing of Main Street,
San Fernando Cathedral was now properly
framed and looked stunning facing the park. The
river park was now connected, and more tourists
began to visit our historic civic center. The City
created the Main Plaza Conservancy to manage
the plaza and plan numerous civic events.
I had the advantage of observing the plaza work
before we made final decisions on our front
courtyard. I eliminated the proposed crushed
granite and devoted all the space to stone paving
and landscaping. We planted mountain laurel
trees, lantana and roses. Most importantly, we
reserved a space in the center of the courtyard for
a very special Greek goddess.
C h a p t e r V I I 1 F 3 9
L A D Y J U S T I C E
by Tracy Wolff
Below, left: The Lady Justice Fountain
in front of the Bexar Counry
Below, right: The base of the Lady
In early 2002, Betty Bueche and I were searching the historical records of Bexar County when
she showed me a picture of Themis, the goddess of divine law and order standing at the top of a
three-tiered fountain. The base of the fountain included her three daughters Eunomia, Eirene, and
Dike who represent harmony, peace and justice as well as the three seasons, Spring, Summer and
Winter. One holds a garland of flowers, one an urn, and one a cornucopia. (The Greeks did not
Betty said that the Lady Justice fountain had been removed during the 1927 construction of an
addition to the courthouse. No one knew what had happened to it. When I showed the picture of
the statue to Nelson he said, “We have to find the Lady Justice fountain.”
4 0 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
The Lady Justice fountain.
C h a p t e r 1 X F 4 1
Top, left: The Lady Justice fountain in
front of the Bexar County Courthouse.
Top, right: Close up view of all sides
of the Ladu Justice fountain base.
We searched all the county’s warehouses, but
we could not find the sculpture. I then persuaded
the San Antonio Express-News to write a story
about the missing Lady Justice fountain. Finally,
an employee of the San Antonio Water System
called me and said the fountain was in their
warehouse at the Dos Rios Treatment Plant.
When we retrieved the fountain, Lady Justice
was missing from the top and we were never
ever able to find her. The three goddesses of the
seasons and the base of the fountain required
After looking at the fountain, I called Nelson
and said, “We can restore the fountain and
create a new Lady Justice, but we will need to
find a sculptor who appreciates and
understands Greek history.”
Nelson replied, “Let’s do it.”
After consulting with several artists, we chose
sculptor Gilbert Barrera to create our new lady
justice. Gilbert’s father, Roy Barrera, Sr., is a
highly respected member of our community and
had also served as Texas Secretary of State.
Gilbert along with his two brothers Roy Jr. and
Bobby became lawyers and partners in their
father’s prominent law firm.
Gilbert had been drawn to art at an early age.
He slowly weaned himself away from practicing
law and began pursuing his sculpturing career. I
was impressed with him because he had studied
the classical ancient Greek and Italian
Renaissance periods of art.
After we decided to engage Gilbert, our
friends Ron and Karen Herrmann agreed to
donate $85,000 from the Hermann Family
Foundation to fund the work.
At our first meeting Gilbert showed us a
picture of “Aphrodite of Knidos” a sculpture
created by Praxiteles in the fourth century B.C.
Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love,
beauty, pleasure and procreation.
Gilbert then told us his research found that
Lady Justice sculptures are based on Praxiteles’
“Aphrodite of Knidos.” Even though all Lady
Justice sculptures in front of courthouses are
clothed, he wanted to sculpt her in the nude
form based on Praxiteles sculpture.
Nelson said that when we visited John Paul
Getty’s replica of the Villa Dei Papiri in Santa
Monica, California we saw a 350 B.C. carving on a
gold piece showing Aphrodite sitting down with a
scale in her hand weighting justice.
4 2 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
A few months later Karen and Ron Herrmann,
Nelson and I met Gilbert at his studio. We stood
together around the four-foot wax model of Lady
Justice that Gilbert had created.
Gilbert told us that Praxiteles used the
contraposition method: tension vs. relaxation of
the arms and legs that gives a sense of
movement. He said Praxiteles brought romance
to sculpture by capturing the beauty of the
female body using the natural curve of the body,
a sensuous, flowing, graceful female body.
We all agreed that he should move forward
with the sculpture.
Finally, on the night of December 7, 2008
hundreds of people joined us for the unveiling
of Lady Justice and the dedication of the
enlarged front courtyard in front of the Bexar
We had created a perfect setting for Lady Justice
in our expanded courtyard, accentuated by
mountain laurel trees, lantana and a garden of
roses. Two elongated benches flanked each side of
Lady Justice. Because it was Christmas time, over
200 poinsettias were placed around the base of the
fountain and on the courthouse steps.
After Nelson gave his welcoming speech, I
spoke and thanked Gilbert for his beautiful
work. I also thanked the Herrmann’s and their
family, who were present, for their donation.
Finally, Nelson, Gilbert and I pulled the cover
off the fountain to reveal Aphrodite.
As we slipped off the cover, our goddess
emerged in all her striking beauty in her bronze
colored skin. She stood on a globe above
the restored twelve-foot high cast iron fountain.
In one hand, she had the scales of justice
and in the other a sword, representing the
enforcement of justice. She was blindfolded
representing objectivity. She had a ribbon in a
curvilinear form floating above her head
representing the sky.
Above: Nelson and Tracy Wolff during
the unveiling of the Lady Justice
Fountain on December 7, 2008.
Below: Aerial view of the courtyard in
front of the Bexar County Courthouse.
C h a p t e r 1 X F 4 3
Right: Lady Justice during the
unveiling ceremony on December 7,
Below: Close up view of the Lady
Barrera had used the sinuous S-curve from the
bun of hair on the back of her head that flowed
around her face and curved behind her shoulder.
She stood with more weight on one leg and the
other leg slightly bent at the knee giving her a
more relaxed view. Her back and arms twisted to
one side of her hips and leg positions.
While she is a certainly a symbol of justice,
she has also inspired love. On Valentine’s
Day, Bexar County holds mass wedding
ceremonies on the steps of the Courthouse.
Five different ceremonies are held. Starting at
midnight with a total of some 500 couples
being married. Almost all have their pictures
taken with the Goddess of Love Aphrodite, our
Nelson tells me that, on most days when he
leaves the courthouse, he walks through the
courtyard and pays his respects to Lady Justice.
We know she will continue to inspire Love and
Justice for many generations to come.
We bought a painting by Janet Campbell of
Lady Justice standing in front of the Courthouse.
It is a night scene with lights reflecting on the
plaza capturing the beauty of the scene just like
the night we unveiled Lady Justice.
In my office at home hangs a nighttime photo
of a close-up view of Lady Justice framed by the
left tower of the courthouse in the background.
It was a Valentine gift, and written at the bottom
is an endearing note: To Tracy, my Aphrodite.
4 4 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
T H E D O U B L E H E I G H T C O U R T R O O M
by Nelson Wolff
Completed in 1897 the original Double-height courtroom was magnificent with chandeliers, a
wooden floor, a 25-foot high coffered ceiling, large wood framed windows, and a balcony. The
Commissioners Court later removed the balcony. In 1926, a new ceiling was installed over the
original ornate ceiling and the walls were plastered.
In 1967, the Commissioners Court approved bifurcating the space by adding a floor and dividing
the Double-height courtroom into two courtrooms. The walls in both courtrooms were covered with
paneling and stucco. With the two courtrooms stacked one on top of the other the original
courtroom no longer recognizable.
Restored Double height courtroom.
C h a p t e r X F 4 5
Above and below: Construction of the
Double height courtroom.
A few weeks after I took office in May 2001,
Tracy, Betty and I took a tour of the 285th District
courtroom, located on the top half of the original
courtroom. I climbed up a ladder and removed a
few ceiling tiles and when I shined a flashlight
inside, I saw the original plaster crown moldings
and low-relief-coffering. I knew that at some
point in time, we had to reveal and restore this
I then went to look at the Presiding courtroom
tucked underneath the floor of the 285th District
courtroom. As I walked around looking at the dark
paneling, two staff members told me not to try to
change the courtroom. I knew where that message
was coming from. Many of the judges did not
embrace change. I also knew that the San Antonio
Bar Association would back up the judges. The
Commissioners Court found it difficult to resist the
political pressure from the Bar and the judges.
So, I had to bide my time. A lot of time;
some 10 years. Meanwhile, we worked on the
restoration projects that were not controversial; the
Children’s Court, restoring other courtrooms and
hallways, fixing numerous electrical and plumbing
problems and repairing the outside walls.
In the meantime, Betty began researching the
history of how the original courtroom was used.
She found that it was originally the County
Judge’s courtroom as well as where the
Commissioners Court met. The Judges only used
the courtroom for famous criminal and civil trials
that required more space. I now had a reason to
not only restore the courtroom but to also
advocate its use by the Commissioners Court.
Finally, in 2010, nine years after taking
office, I took the first steps toward tackling
the controversial issue. By this time, we had
successfully accomplished numerous restoration
projects in the courthouse. As a result, Tracy
and I had both established credibility with
the Commissioners Court, most of the judges
and the public. I was now in a position to
hopefully overcome the significant opposition of
Based on research, I suggested that the judges
share the courtroom with the Commissioners
Court. I also wanted to open up the courtroom for
use by the public by allowing civic organizations to
have meetings and evening dinners, much like we
did when we built the City Hall Chambers in 1994.
After I trotted out my proposal, the judges
sent a letter to the Commissioners Court stating
that they unanimously opposed the proposal.
They also started organizing the leadership of the
San Antonio Bar Association to oppose it. Several
lawyers called backing up the judges’ position.
I still thought that I could change the
judge’s minds about sharing the courtroom,
so I arranged to meet with five judges that
represented all the district civil judges. The
meeting did not go so well. They said they were
not going to share the courtroom with the
Commissioners Court. Sometimes change is
hard to accept even although the judges
whose courtrooms we had restored were proud
4 6 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
As the custodian of the courthouse it had
always been my policy to accommodate the
wants and the needs of the judges. But now, I
was determined to go even further. Under the
new plan the Commissioners Court would have
sole control of the Double-height courtroom.
In early 2011, I had architectural drawings
for a new Presiding Court to be located on the
first floor of the courthouse. It would take the
place of the original Presiding Court and also
included additional space for a satellite filing
desk for the district clerk as well as a conference
and meeting room for lawyers and their clients.
It included laptop work counters with a wireless
internet system to give attorneys room to work
and prepare their court documents. No longer
would attorneys have to meet with the clients in
I was now able to convince several of the
judges that this plan would work better for
them. Many of the lawyers liked it because of
the private meeting space. They also no longer
would have to take the stairway to the second
floor to enter the existing Presiding Court. But
still some of the judges and lawyers were against
the plan. If you wait for everybody to get on
board the train, it will never leave the station.
On June 5, 2011 the Commissioners Court
approved the plan to restore the Double-height
courtroom for use by the Commissioners Court,
the public, and special trials that required more
space. We also approved the new Presiding Court
and relocating the 285th District Court.
As we proceeded with the construction on the
new Presiding Court on the first floor, Judge
Solomon J. Casseb III made a recommendation to
the Commissioners Court to name the court after
his father, Judge Solomon Casseb, Jr. His father
was the judge who led the effort to create the
Presiding Court system in 1962 and then became
the first presiding judge.
When I was a student at the downtown St.
Mary’s Law School from 1963-66, I remember
going to courthouse to see him in action. He
had a commanding presence, was a respected
judge and had received numerous honors as a
judge. He passed away in 2009 at the age of 94.
The Commissioners Court agreed to honor him
and approved the naming.
Judge Casseb III spoke at the grand opening
of the new Presiding Court in October 2012.
Following his speech, we revealed a memorial
plaque naming the court after his father. Almost
all the judges seemed happy with their new
court as well as the lawyers were also very
happy with their new private meeting rooms
While we were working on the new Presiding
court, we developed architectural plans for the
restoration of the Double-height courtroom. We
chose the architectural firm of Fisher-Heck,
experts in historic restoration.
Left: Original windows restored.
Below: Reception in the Double
C h a p t e r X F 4 7
With that picture of the original courtroom
we were able to determine the major features of
the space. We also found the serial numbers
from the original chandeliers and traced them to
a St. Louis company that was still in business.
They said they could replicate them.
As construction work began on the courtroom,
we ran across a unique opportunity. Guido
Brothers Construction Company was doing work
on the 1888 downtown Joske’s building when
they discovered longleaf pine joists that had been
harvested around the 1880s. They had a rich,
deep, red pine color that was described as an
historic treasure of “organic gold”.
Since the wood floors in the courtroom were
installed at about the same time as Joske’s we paid
$130,000 for 5,000 square feet of the rare wood
and milled them into flooring for the courtroom.
Because we had agreed to allow the judges to
use the Double-height courtroom for infrequent
larger trials we built a transforming bench from
one that set the five-member commissioners
configuration to a judicial bench that required
boxes for witnesses and court clerk.
We held our grand opening on January 6,
2015. The courtroom was stunning as people
walked around looking at the original features
that were finally revealed and restored. They were
Above: Restored entrance to the
Below: Restored Presiding Court
We were unable to find James Reily Gordon’s
original architectural drawings, so we employed
historian Maria Pfeiffer to interview people
who had been in the courtroom before it was
torn asunder. She also found a picture of the
4 8 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
astounded at the 13 rose windows, replicas of the
famous rose window at Mission San Jose, that
had been covered up with plaster and now were
revealed in all their glory. The original plaster
crown moldings and low-relief coffering was
restored. The large wood framed windows were
now visible stretching 25 feet up to the ceiling.
We rebuilt the balcony and included 75 seats.
We restored the arched outdoor porch that
had been closed in. It now provides a great view
of Lady Justice and Main Plaza. French doors
were reconstructed that connected the courtroom
to the porch.
We also built two adjoining conference
rooms, a jury room, room for audio-visual
equipment, a media office, briefing room, office
Opposite page, bottom, right: Restored
spiral staircase from the judge’s office
to a loft.
Above: Bexar County Commissioners
Court layout in the Double-height
Left: King Felipe VI veiwing the
Designing America exhibit.
C h a p t e r X F 4 9
Above: June 17, 2018, King Felipe VI
and Queen Letizia visited Bexar
County Courthouse for the
inauguration of the Designing
space and restrooms. A spiral staircase from
judge’s office to a loft was restored.
We had a special treat when we revealed four
paintings by former County Commissioner and
folk artist William G.M. Samuel. They were
painted around 1850 and were loaned to the
Witte Museum about 70 years ago. Betty and I
met with Marise McDermott, president of the
Witte Museum, to look at the paintings and she
agreed to return them.
They were colorful paintings of San Fernando
Cathedral, La Quinta (the first post office), Casa
Reales (the original site of city and county
government) and other buildings and residences
around Main Plaza. Numerous citizens are
depicted enjoying life around the plaza.
Since our opening many more citizens now
attend our Commissioner Court meetings.
Numerous civic groups have used the courtroom for
government meetings, news conferences, receptions,
breakfasts, luncheons, graduations and symposiums.
In 2016, the Commissioners Court accepted an
award from the San Antonio Conservation Society
for restoration of the Double-height courtroom.
On June 17, 2018 we held a reception in the
restored courtroom for Spanish King Felipe V1 and
Queen Letizia on their official visit to San Antonio to
celebrate our city and county’s 300th anniversary.
We also gave them a tour of a major exhibit that
we held on the first floor of the courthouse. It
included documents, maps and pictures of Spain’s
explorations and settlements in North America.
5 0 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
T H E R E M O V A L O F T H E G O N D E C K A D D I T I O N S
by Nelson Wolff
Left: Gondeck Addition c. 1972.
Below: Gondeck Addition during the
It is interesting how the best laid building
plans can sometimes evolve into an architectural
nightmare because of a lack of will. In 1968 the
Commissioners Court started out in the right
direction when they began working on plans for a
proposed 14-story courthouse building. Because
of financial concerns, the plans were abandoned.
Instead of building the new building in January
1970, the Commissioners Court approved a fourstory,
38,000 sq. ft. concrete framed addition on
the southwest corner of the courthouse designed
by the Gondeck Architectural firm. The
windowless granite agglomerate-paneled addition
was finished in early 1972.
Previously in 1963, the Commissioners Court
had authorized the building of a smaller 9,000
C h a p t e r X 1 F 5 1
Above: Removal of the Gondeck
Below: A 15-foot metal fence designed
by sculptor George Schroeder, named
square foot windowless second story addition
to the west side of the Courthouse also designed
For the next 40 years much talk took
place about the inappropriate additions. But
To remove the Gondeck additions, we would
have to develop a plan to relocate employees to
another building. For several years, Commissioner
Paul Elizondo advocated building a new
administrative office building on a parking lot
located across Main Street from the courthouse
and next to the Justice Center that had been built
in 1988. An underground tunnel had been
constructed under Main Street connecting the
Justice Center and the courthouse.
I teamed up with Commissioner Elizondo to
get the support to move forward with the
building. The new building would save $600,000
a year in rental payments that we were paying to
house county employees in other buildings. It
would also provide space for the relocated
employees working in the Gondeck additions.
We approved the construction of a new 10
story, 215,000 square foot building. It would be
the first major vertical construction that the county
had undertaken in 20 years. It would be wrapped
in Pecos red sandstone and granite used in the
original courthouse. It would also include the
latest technology and energy efficiency standards.
Solar panels would be installed, the first building
downtown to do so. We would be the first publicly
owned LEED Silver building in San Antonio.
The offices of the District Clerk, County Clerk,
Auditor, District Attorney, Budget and Economic
Development Departments and other administrative
offices would be housed in the building. The
Commissioners Court would take the top floor. The
District Attorney’s offices would be moved from the
Justice Center into the new building, allowing us to
fill that space with eight new criminal courts.
5 2 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
As construction neared completion, we
began work on a 15 foot artist metal fence
designed by sculptor George Schroeder that
would enclose a courtyard between our new
building and the Justice Center. We also built
into the lobby floor and outdoor sidewalks
mosaic designs by Eloise Stoker, a local
renowned artist, to represent the Acequia
Principal that flowed in the past where the
building now stands.
We began moving in December 2010. The
following year Commissioner Kevin Wolff
introduced a resolution to name the building
after Commissioner Paul Elizondo who had
proposed its construction some 20 years earlier.
The Commissioners Court approved the
resolution. It was a well-deserved honor for a
great commissioner and my good friend.
After everyone moved out of the Gondeck
addition, Betty and I went up to the top floor.
Looking down at a small space between the two
buildings she said, “The architect knew that
sometime in the future we would want to take
this addition down. He created this space
between the courthouse and the addition and
used brackets to attach it to the courthouse. By
doing it this way it caused minimal damage to
courthouse. You can see how the original walls
were not damaged."
I replied, “He obviously realized that the
commissioners were making a mistake. When will
you have your structural analysis completed?”
She said, “Soon. It will show the walls
are cracking in both the 1963 and 1970
additions and that the 1972 addition has other
I replied, “Very good.”
One year after the completion of the Paul
Elizondo Tower in November 2011, we took the
first step to demolish the Gondeck additions and
Above, left: Demolition of the fivestory
Gondeck addition for the
exterior renovation of the Bexar
Below: The Paul Elizondo Building
with the Courthouse on the right of
the Gondeck addition.
C h a p t e r X 1 F 5 3
Bexar County Courthouse after the
Gondeck had been removed.
reveal the hidden beauty of the courthouse that
had been covered up for over 40 years. We
approved an expenditure of $30,000 to seek a
state grant from the Texas Historical Commission
to pay for a portion of the cost of taking down the
two Gondeck additions.
In January 2012, I appeared before the Texas
Historical Commission. I asked for a $2.5
million grant to remove the Gondeck additions
and I committed the Commissioners Court to
fund the balance of the project. We were later
awarded the grant.
On January 15, 2014, we held a symbolic ropepulling
ceremony. With Tracy standing in the
front, a group of us pulled down a section of the
Gondeck addition. We were off and running with
Slowly, but surely the 1972 and 1963
additions started coming down. As I watched the
removal process each day, the more excited I got
about seeing the condition of the original
windows and courthouse walls. Once I could see
the walls and windows, I was amazed that the
coloring of the walls was the same as the rest of
the courthouse after decades of being unexposed
to the sun and weather. I was reminded that it
had also been subject to the elements for several
decades before the two additions were added and
the color was not distorted.
With the removal of the Gondeck addition,
we were able to expand our south courtyard and
re-landscape. The south side courtyard is now
as beautiful as the front courtyard.
One and half years later on July 14, 2015, we
held a ceremony to reveal the hidden beauty of
the west side of the courthouse. My friend and
outstanding Texas Historical Commission
Chairman John Nau thanked us for returning our
landmark courthouse to its original exterior look.
He went on to say that we have brought back its
grandeur and that we were the most successful of
the state’s courthouse preservation projects.
In addition to the state contribution of
$2.5 million, Tracy raised $1.3 million with
the remaining funds contributed by the
With the removal of the Gondeck additions,
the courthouse was still a very large building
consisting of 213,000 square foot. Now our
historic courthouse has been restored to the
original construction of 1892, and the 1914 and
1926 additions are a seamless extension.
5 4 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
Above: Tracy Wolff during the
rededication ceremony for the Bexar
County Courthouse on July 14, 2015.
Left: Commissioners Court at the
rededication ceremony for the Bexar
County Courthouse on July 14, 2015.
C h a p t e r X 1 F 5 5
T H E B E X A R C O U N T Y A R C H I V E S B U I L D I N G
by Nelson Wolff
Bexar County Archives Building.
The Federal Reserve is the central bank system of the United States. It is governed by a seven-member
board appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. There are 12 regional Federal banks, whose
shareholders are privately owned banks that fall under the Federal Reserve System. The whole system is
described as an independent entity within the government, having both public and private aspects.
One of the 12 regional banks one is located in Dallas. The Dallas Reserve bank has two branches,
one in San Antonio that was built in 1950. It was built on a site that was originally the Vance House,
a two-story hotel where General Robert E. Lee frequently stayed. It is located at 126 East Nueva,
across from the south end of the courthouse.
It is a sturdy, secured 90,000 square foot, three-story building with a basement and sub-basement
that supposedly could withstand an atomic explosion. In these underground spaces there is a
shooting range, three large vaults, and loading docks where trucks would unload tons of cash.
As our society evolved into a largely cashless and checkless society the Federal Reserve no longer
needed this large building. By 2013, they had reduced their workforce from some 75 employees to
5 6 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
15. They made a decision to sell the building
and relocate their staff to a smaller building.
They called to see if the Commissioners Court
were interested in buying the building and we
said we were.
We wanted the building to house the county’s
valuable historic documents. We have numerous
documents including land grants and sales,
mission records, decrees, edits and laws, rebel
properties and post-civil war amnesty oaths, as
well as microfilm of earlier Spanish documents
housed at the Briscoe Center for American
History at the University of Texas at Austin.
The large climate-controlled vaults were
ideal to protect the documents. We also had
room on the first floor to create a display space
and a reading room for citizens who wanted to
In 2013, we began negotiations to buy the
building that was set on a small city block. They
agreed verbally to sell it to us at market value to
be determined by an outside appraisal. However
later they changed their mind and decided to
choose a developer who would find another
location, build them a new building and buy the
Federal Reserve building.
This was a breach of our verbal agreement.
So, we then decided to start condemnation
proceedings to force a sale to Bexar County. This
did not go over very well with Federal Reserve
officials. They said we had no right to condemn
their property and that they would fight it.
Once we went public with our dispute and
they saw we were serious about condemnation
they finally agreed to sell to us. We finally
reached an agreement on April 8, 2014 to buy
the building based on our original agreement.
We paid the appraised price of $6.5 million.
After we received control of the building an
opportunity came our way to host an exhibit of
Spanish historical documents that tell the story
of the 17th and 18th century Spanish colonial
exploration of the new world and the settlement
of the area that would become Bexar County.
We very much wanted to host the exhibit
because Bexar County’s successful effort to have
the missions and the Alamo inscribed as a
UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015. Our
work began in 2006 when Virginia Nicholas,
Chair of the Bexar County Historical
Commission, first introduced the idea of
applying for inscription. Bexar County
coordinated the National Park Service,
Los Compadres (now known as Mission
Heritage Partners), San Antonio River Authority
and the San Antonio Conservation Society on
On July 5, 2015 we traveled to Bonn,
Germany and were successful before the
UNESCO World Heritage Committee. The
historic Missions and the Alamo were inscribed
as a World Heritage Site, the only one in the
State of Texas.
Betty Bueche traveled to Spain reached an
agreement to borrow documents from the
General Archive of the Indies in Seville, Spain.
She also collected artifacts and documents from
other institutions including maps, official
reports, mission inventories, and religious and
We built exhibit space on the first floor in
our newly acquired building, located next to the
Bexar County Archives. The successful exhibit
ran from May through September 2016. It was
the first exhibit leading up to the celebration of
our community’s 300th anniversary to be held
two years later in 2018.
As we were preparing for the Spanish
historical document exhibit, I read in the San
Below: Bexar County Archives
Building vault where the Spanish
Archives were stored.
C h a p t e r X I 1 F 5 7
Above: Texas A&M-San Antonio
Archives and Special Collections office
at the Bexar County Archives
Below: Judge Nelson Wolff viewing at
Texas Declaration of Independence
document at the Grand Opening of
the Daughters of the Republic of
Texas exhibit on October 27, 2017.
Antonio Express-News that the city of San
Antonio was turning down an opportunity to
house the Daughters of the Republic of Texas’s
Alamo Library collection. When the State of
Texas took over the Alamo, they sought to keep
the Daughters’ collection but lost in court. The
Daughters stored the collection in several
warehouses while looking for a permanent home.
The Alamo Library collection was established
by the Daughters on October 12, 1945 and
housed a converted fire station just southeast of
the Alamo. In 1950, a new building was
constructed on the Alamo grounds to house the
collection which held the collection until the
state took over.
The extraordinary collection included
17,000 book titles including genealogy, politics,
art, and natural history associated with Texas. It
also included 450 collections of personal and
family papers, 40,000 photographic images
recording the history of the Alamo and the
people of Texas. Approximately 1,000 pieces of
graphic art, paintings and decorative arts are
among the collections in addition to prints and
posters, periodicals, newspapers, sheet music,
and clipping files. They had more than 1,000
maps dating back to 1597.
The same day that I read about the city’s
decision I called attorney Lamont Jefferson, who
represented the Daughters. I said that the
County would be interested in providing a
home for them in the former Federal Reserve
building. He said that they may be interested
and would have someone call me.
Later that same day, Texas A&M—San Antonio
(TAMUSA) President Dr. Cynthia Matson called
me and said they would be curating the Daughters
collection. She was interested in my proposal and
wanted to see the facility. I replied that I would be
5 8 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
leaving town Monday. President Matson said, “I
can be there tomorrow.” We then set a time.
After walking through the building with Dr.
Matson and two representatives of Daughters,
they said that their documents and artifacts
would compliment the Bexar County archives.
They also liked our climate control vaults and
the finished-out display space, which were
renovated to the meet the standards of the
American Museum Association. They asked how
much I would charge, and I said a dollar a year
plus utility costs. Matson said she liked the
price and wanted to move forward with a lease.
Three months later on August 8, 2016, we
held a joint press conference in front of the
former Federal Reserve building and announced
that Bexar County and TAMUSA had reached an
agreement to house the collection. Later that
same day, the Commissioners Court approved the
lease of an initial term of two years with three,
one-year options, for 9,937 square feet and
shared space of 1,184 square feet. They would
pay $25,438.72 a year to cover utility expenses.
We held the grand opening on October 27,
2017. President General of the Daughters of the
Republic of Texas Barbara Steven along with
many of their members attended. Leslie
Stapleton, formerly with the Alamo Library,
became the Texas A&M Archives and Special
Collection manager. She gave everyone a tour
of the exhibit. The highlight of the tour was
the signed original Texas Declaration of
Independence from Mexico.
We named the building the “Bexar County
Archives Building” and had the name inscribed
on the front of the building with a lighted sign.
We also created a sign for Texas A&M—San
Antonio and a large banner that advertised the
Daughters of the Republic collection.
The Daughter’s collection and Bexar County
archives provide research opportunities for
professional scholars, amateur historians, and
the general public. Our citizens now have the
opportunity to learn how the assimilation of our
unique cultures have come together to build our
great city; to understand our past to prepare
ourselves for our future.
On the second floor, we located the Bexar
County Family Justice Center. They provide
services to assist victims of domestic violence. On
the third floor, we provided space to the San
Antonio Bar Association. Through their outreach
programs the members of the Bar will assist
citizens will legal services. Also, on the third floor
will be located the public defender office that
represent defendants who do not have the
financial resources to defend themselves.
So, all the trauma we went through in
obtaining the building complex was well worth
the effort. The citizens of Bexar County now
have a combination of services located in a
Exhibits from the Bexar County
C h a p t e r X I 1 F 5 9
T H E B E X A R H E R I T A G E C E N T E R
by Nelson Wolff
Below and on opposite page:
Exhibits from the Bexar County
It was exciting to discover that when the Gondeck addition was removed off the west side of the
courthouse, the original front porch and double door entrance to west side of the courthouse were
preserved. The entrance was midway between the north and south entrance to the courthouse and
face a plaza that we created when we closed Main Street.
The west side entrance opened up into 6,500 square feet of vacant space that was not usable as
courtroom. Betty and I started talking about creating a heritage center in the available space. The
purpose would be to educate the public on the role of county government.
Betty employed a local firm, Toxey/McMillan Design Associates to begin planning for the center.
They had designed the Dallas Museum of Natural History, the Austin’s Children Museum, The
American Heritage Airpower Museum, and had numerous other clients such as Walt Disney and
Anne Toxey has a Ph.D. in Architectural History from the University of California Berkley, a B.A.
in art history from Sweet Briar College, and a Master of Architecture from the University of Texas.
6 0 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
C h a p t e r X I I 1 F 6 1
Exhibits from the Bexar County
6 2 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
Patrick McMillan has a degree from the
University of California, Los Angeles. They have
been in business together for 20 years.
Together with Toxey and McMillan, Betty
hosted a series of meetings with local elected
county officials and historians. Out of the meetings
came the idea that a series of displays would tell
the history and how Bexar County operated.
But as we talked about her proposal, the
more I realized that citizens would get lost in
the minutiae of the various office functions and
would miss the essence of modern-day Bexar
County, that being the actual projects that we
had built and how they benefited our citizens
and future generations.
Betty and I met with Toxey and McMillan in
their home and office located at 218 Washington
in the King William neighborhood. Their 1917
brick mansion was built by the Gieseckie family.
At one time, Toxey’s grandfather owned the home
and lived there.
We were served tea and cookies in their
living room, surrounded by numerous artifacts
that they had collected over the years. As we
began to talk Toxey looked straight into my eyes
and measured each word I was saying. While I
sketched out a vision, she made notes and you
could see her creativity coming alive.
I told her that I wanted most of the heritage
center to focus on major projects that the
county had taken on and completed in the
modern era. Over the last 20 years, the
Commissioners Court have pushed hard to
bring Bexar County into the modern era by
taking on projects that heretofore were never
been considered before such as amateur sports
parks, a performing arts center and the county
arena where the Spurs play.
At the conclusion of our discussion, she said to
give her some time to put a proposal together. She
stated that she would present us with a series
of displays along with interactive computergenerated
programing. She stated that a series of
dioramas, projections, and interactive panels
using the latest technology would capture the
attention of visitors to the museum.
Toxey/McMillian brought us a conceptual
design of the center in February 2016. A circular
information center included television monitors
that broadcasted a greeting from the county
commissioners court. The exhibits start with the
Spanish and Mexican administrations of Texas;
Texas as an independent nation, her statehood,
the post-Civil War era; and into the modern age.
In the modern era, the first exhibit includes a
crime scene investigation that will explain the role
of the District Attorney, Sheriff, and the forensic
lab and Medical Examiner’s office. Following is an
exhibit of the new $899 million ten-story Bexar
County Sky Tower hospital and six-story
downtown Clinical and Ambulatory building that
the Commissioners Court Funded in 2008. It
included an architectural drawing of the upcoming
$390 million Women and Children’s Hospital that
the Commissioner’s Court approved in 2017.
Next is an exhibit of the restoration of the
Bexar County Courthouse funded by
Commissioners Court, the Hidalgo Foundation
and the Texas Historical Commission. There are
exhibits of the Mission Reach of the San Antonio
River and San Pedro Creek that the county
funded. An exhibit of the new County Arena
that is home of the Spurs and Rodeo and the
restored Coliseum. An exhibit of the Tobin
Center for the Performing Arts, the Alameda
Theater, and the Briscoe Western Art Museum,
all of which were partly funded by the county.
Exhibits of the four missions emphasize the
World Heritage designation the county led the
effort to obtain in 2015. Bexar County
Bibliotech, the world’s first all-digital public
library, has an interactive site where people can
register to become a patron.
All of the exhibits include a series of
dioramas, projections, and interactive panels,
virtual reality portals, text and computer games
and interactive computer research terminals.
Each diorama will be composed of iconic
images, murals, and artifacts.
During the summer of 2019, we hosted the
Institute of Texan Culture’s Summer Teacher
Institute who are focusing on our history and our
role in governing. Teachers from all school
districts participated. They received lesson plans,
take field trips and learn from our Heritage
Center. They will then be able to provide
information to their students that will impress
upon them the importance of local representative
government, the importance of their vote, and
the civic responsibility to one another.
We hosted other interest groups during the
summer and opened the public in August 2019.
C h a p t e r X I I 1 F 6 3
Right: Northside view of the Bexar
6 4 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
C O N C L U S I O N
Over the last 18 years that I have been county judge, the Commissioners Court and the Hidalgo
Foundation have restored the historic courthouse and created a courthouse complex that will serve
citizens for decades to come. The courthouse complex now includes the historic courthouse, the
Justice Center, the Paul Elizondo Tower, and the Bexar County Archives building.
We encourage you to take a tour of the historic courthouse. Lady Justice will greet you as walk
through the expanded, re-landscaped north front courtyard. Then enter the courthouse walk through
restored hallways and pass beautiful historic windows. Stop by the Children’s Court, the new Presiding
Court, and seven restored courtrooms. Don’t miss the Double-height restored courtroom. Spend some
time in the Bexar County Heritage Center where you will learn a great deal about Bexar County.
Exit on the south end of the courthouse and enjoy the expanded landscaped courtyard. Then
walk across Nueva Street to the Bexar County Archives building to view the Alamo collection and
look through some of the historic records of Bexar County.
It’s a tour you do not want to miss.
Tracy and I want to thank my colleagues on the Commissioners Court for approving the plans and
providing funding for the courthouse restoration. The Bexar County staff, headed by County
Manager David Smith, were instrumental in moving the project forward. The restoration would not
have been possible without the great work and historical knowledge of Betty Bueche.
We would like to thank our staff who have helped us put this book together: Nicole Erfurth,
Monica Ramos, Betty Bueche, Deborah Velasquez, Allen Castro, Thomas Guevara, Eric Maldonaldo
and Jonathan Villarreal. We also appreciate the underwriting law firms who made this book possible.
We would like to also thank all of the contractors and architects who worked on the project as
well the law firms, individuals, foundations, and companies who contributed to the restoration.
The historic courthouse now stands as a monumental testament to our past and a proud symbol
for the future. It has been a great privilege for Tracy and me to have played a role in this
contribution to the citizens of Bexar County.
C h a p t e r X I V F 6 5
C O U N T Y
N E L S O N
J U D G E
W. W O L F F
B E X A R C O U N T Y C O M M I S S I O N E R S C O U R T
Nelson William Wolff has represented Bexar
County in various political offices since 1971,
when he was elected to the Texas House of
Representatives. Thereafter, he was elected to
the Texas Senate in 1973, the San Antonio City
Council in 1987, and served as Mayor of San
Antonio from 1991 to 1995. He currently serves
as Bexar County Judge, a position he was
appointed to in 2001 and has since been elected
to five times, most recently in November 2018.
He is only the second person in more than a
century to serve as both Mayor of San Antonio
and Bexar County Judge.
Judge Wolff works to promote and improve
economic and workforce development in Bexar
County. He is an adamant supporter of the
emerging local tech industry and helped form
the Innovation Fund, a $1 million allocation
dedicated to spur jobs and growth in the tech
sector. He also led the development and creation
of BiblioTech, the nation’s first all-digital public
library which now serves the community
through three main branches and several kiosks.
The third branch, located in a San Antonio
Housing Authority facility on the eastside of San
Antonio, opened in April 2018.
Judge Wolff also initiated a $415 million
visitor tax-backed bond that aided the
construction of 13 amateur sports facilities, the
Tobin Center for the Fine Arts, improvements to
the AT&T Center, and improvements to the San
Antonio River, including the eight-mile Mission
Reach. River improvements proved vital to the
UNESCO World Heritage designation for the
Spanish colonial missions on San Antonio’s
Working with Bexar County, the San
Antonio River Authority, and the City of San
Antonio, Judge Wolff encouraged additional
growth and city beautification with the San
Pedro Creek Improvements Project. Phase 1 of
the project opened on May 5, 2018—Bexar
County’s 300th birthday. In addition to
boosting economic development, the
improvements project is designed to revitalize
natural habitat and improve flood control. In
conjunction, Judge Wolff also aided in the
continued improvement of HALT (High Water
Alert Lifesaving Technology) and the creation of
Judge Wolff has focused on improving
county services. County improvements in
highway and flood control infrastructure have
increased during his tenure. Bexar County has
reformed the criminal justice system to help
people with mental health and drug issues.
Bexar County opened the Justice Intake and
Assessment Center in April 2019. Two new
sheriff substations, Northeast and Southwest,
opened in November 2018 and February 2019
respectively. Judge Wolff maintains continued
partnerships with the 26 suburban cities to
ensure all Bexar County citizens are safe and
receive the best possible services.
Judge Wolff and his family built two large
companies—Alamo Enterprises and Sun Harvest
Stores—and sold them both to national companies.
Together, Judge Wolff and his wife Tracy,
President of the Hidalgo Foundation, have six
children and eight grandchildren.
6 6 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
T R A C Y W O L F F
F O U N D E R A N D P R E S I D E N T O F T H E
H I D A L G O F O U N D A T I O N O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
For more than two decades, Tracy Wolff
has served as a community volunteer and
fundraiser, primarily focusing on children and
As first Lady of San Antonio, when her
husband was Mayor in the 1990’s, she
established a three million dollar fund in the
San Antonio Area Foundation for quality
childcare called ”SMART START”. She also
raised corporate dollars for the downtown
public Library as it was being built, and helped
to establish the original Children’s Museum.
Since 2001, Tracy Wolff, has served as First
Lady of Bexar County, along with her husband,
Bexar County Judge Nelson W. Wolff. In 2002,
Tracy created the Hidalgo Foundation of Bexar
County, a 501C 3 to served three major goals.
GOAL #1: RESTORATION of the Courthouse—
The Hidalgo Foundation was charged with raising
six million dollars towards the restoration of the
GOAL #2: CHILDREN—Because of her
commitment to children’s issues she added the
creation of the Children Courts. They are now
the model for the Nation.
GOAL #3: EDUCATION—With her husband,
Judge Wolff, they created the Bexar County
BIBLIOTECH the first all-digital public library
in The United States. Free to the residents
of Bexar County, there are three physical
locations, with over 400,000 e-books in
circulation, 86,000 e-books in the BiblioTech
collection, over 425,000 on-site visitors. A
Ride & Read School Bus program was recently
added. There are kiosks located at all the
Military bases, University Health System
Hospital, The Central Jury Room and Wi-Fi in
the VIA bus system. Many educational programs
are offered that support STEM/STREAM and
other opportunities to prepare young people for
college or the workforce.
Over the years, Tracy has received many
awards but outstanding is the International
Recognition of The DIF Monterey Service
Award, for facilitating childcare training with a
sister city & providing medical supplies.
A special honor from the Harvey E. Najim
Foundation was the naming of a Respite Care
Home for Children in her honor. Tracy is also a
member of the Women’s Hall of Fame and The
Mother of the Year Award, AVANCE San Antonio.
Tracy is married to Bexar County Judge Nelson
W. Wolff and together they have a family of six
children and eight beautiful grandchildren.
A b o u t T h e A u t h o r s F 6 7
A R C H I T E C T S
& C O N T R A C T O R S
F O R T H E R E S T O R A T I O N P R O J E C T
3 D I n t e r n a t i o n a l
A l a m o A r c h i t e c t s
A r c h i t e c t u r a S A
F i s h e r H e c k A r c h i t e c t s
R o b e y A r c h i t e c t s
S a l d a n a a n d A s s o c i a t e s
V i t t e t t a
F o r d , P o w e l l , C a r s o n ( B a s e m e n t C o u n t y C l e r k S p a c e )
P i w o n k a S t u r o c k ( G e n e r a t o r R e p l a c e m e n t )
C O N S T R U C T O R S A N D A S S O C I A T E S
J o e r i s
K u n z
M J B o y l e
P u g h C o n s t r u c t o r s
S t o d d a r d C o n s t r u c t i o n
T e b b e n
A l p h a ( B a s e m e n t C o u n t y C l e r k S p a c e )
6 8 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
B E X A R C O U N T Y C O U R T H O U S E R E S T O R A T I O N
P R O J E C T
A W A R D S
• 2002 Excellence Award, Texas Construction Magazine, for
Engineering Design of Scaffolding
• 2003 Historic Preservation Award, San Antonio Conservation
Society, Bexar County Courthouse Restoration
• 2003 Excellence Award, Texas Construction Magazine,
Bexar County Exterior Restoration and Interior Life
• 2003 Excellence Award, Associated Builders and Contractors,
Bexar County Courthouse Restoration
• 2003 Mayor's Choice Award, SA Chapter of American Institute
of Architects, Exterior Restoration of Bexar County Courthouse
• 2005 Model for the Nation Award, Courtroom 21, School of Law,
College of William and Mary, for Childrens Technology Courts
• 2008 Project of the Year, American Subcontractor Association,
Mission RoadJuvenile Campus Phase 1
• 2010 Bill Sinkin Award - Build Green San Antonio, City of
San Antonio Green Building, WOW on-line tracking/public
reporting of County-wide energy conservation (includes
courthouse - window retrofits for 509 historic windows, and
air conditioning system modifications)
• 2010 Award of Merit, illuminating Engineering Society of
North America, Exterior facade lighting design for historic
Bexar County Courthouse
• 2010 Design Award, American Institute of Architects, Design
of Andy Mireles Juvenile Probation Center
• 2011 Refreshing Ideas Award, San Antonio Water System, Air
conditioning condensation used for restored historic fountain,
Bexar County Courthouse
• 2011 Green IT Award for Commitment to Sustainability, GTC
Southwest Center for Digital Government, WOW on-line
tracking/public reporting of County-wide energy conservation
• 2011 Golden Trowel Award - Honorable Mention, San
Antonio Masonry Contractors Association, Courtyard of Paul
• 2011 Golden Trowel Award - 1st Place, San Antonio Masonry
Contractors Association, Paul Elizondo Tower
• 2012 AGC Report Card - 1st Place, Annual Building Owners
Survey, Associated General Contractors, San Antonio Chapter
• 2015 Commissioners Court Proclamation, for accomplishments
in obtaining World Heritage inscription for the Missions of
• 2016 San Antonio Conservation Society Award, for
restoration of the historic 1897 Double-height courtroom,
Bexar County Courthouse
• 2016 People's Choice Award, for restoration of the historic
Bexar County Courthouse
• 2016 Golden Trowel Awards Superior Design, San Antonio
Masonry Contractors Association, for restoration and
renovation of the Gondeck Removal, Bexar County Courthouse
• 2016 Historic Restoration Award, Preservation Texas
• 2010 Best Practices Award, Texas Association of Counties, Air
conditioning condensation used for restored historic fountain,
Bexar County Courthouse
A p p e n d i x F 6 9
A R C H I T E C T S
& C O N T R A C T O R S
F O R T H E R E S T O R A T I O N P R O J E C T
C O U R T H O U S E R E S T O R A T I O N F U N D R A I S I N G
• McNutt Foundation
• Valero Energy Corporation
• USAA Foundation
• Spurs Sports & Entertainment
• San Antonio Conservation Society
• Ron & Karen Herrmann Family Foundation
COUNTY GRANT FUNDING:
• Texas Historic Commission
The public/private partnership between the Hidalgo Foundation and Bexar County has resulted in the Hidalgo Foundation raising
more than $15 million from local and state foundations, philanthropy, and private citizens with the County raising an additional $10
million in matching funds.
A S P E C I A L T H A N K Y O U T O T H E B E X A R C O U N T Y L A W C O M M U N I T Y :
• Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP
• Bexar County Women’s Bar Foundation
• Bracewell & Giuliani
• Bracewell & Patterson, LLP
• Branton & Hall, P.C.
• Bull & Weed, P.C.
• Cox Smith Matthews, Incorporated
• Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP
• Loeffler Tuggey Pauerstein
• Martin, Drought & Torres Incorporated
• Matthews & Branscomb
• McCamish, Socks & Montpas, P.C.
• Judge Ed Minarich
• Prichard, Hawkins & Young, LLP
7 0 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
• Crofts & Callaway, A Professional Corporation
• Curney, Garcia, Farmer, Pickering & House, P.C.
• Davidson & Troilo
• Davis Cedillo & Mendoza, Inc.
• Earl & Brown, PC
• Fullbright and Jaworski
• Haynes and Boone, LLP
• Heard, Linebarger, Graham, Googan, et al.
• Higdon, Hardy and Zuflacht, LLP
• Jackson Walker, LLP.
• Jane Freeman Deyeso, Attorney at Law
• Jenkins & Gilchrist, PC
• Law Offices of Charles S. Frigerio, P.C.
• The Honorable Susan Reed
• Rosenthal, LLP
• Strasburger & Price, LLP
• San Antonio Bar Association
• San Antonio Bar Association Family Law Section
• San Antonio Bar Auxiliary
• San Antonio Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates
• San Antonio Young Lawyers.
• Jill Torbet
• Pablo Uresti, Trial Lawyer
• Gilbert Vara, Jr.
• Winstead Secrest & Minick, P.C.
• Women’s Law Association at St. Mary’s University School of Law
• The Law Offices of Pat Maloney
C O U R T H O U S E R E S T O R A T I O N F U N D R A I S I N G
• Goldsbury Foundation
• Santikos Fund
• San Antonio Area Foundation
• Meadows Foundation
• Harvey E. Najim Family Foundation
• Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio
• Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas, Inc.
• Temple Beth-el
• The Tobin Endowment
COUNTY GRANT FUNDING:
• U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
• Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (CPS HOPES)
• Governor’s Office
A p p e n d i x F 7 1
B E X A R C O U N T Y O R G A N I Z A T I O N C H A R T
T I N A S M I T H D E A N
Assistant County Manager
D AV I D M A R Q U E Z
C O M M I S S I O N E R S C O U RT
M I K E L O Z I T O
D AV I D L. S M I T H
Office of Criminal Justice
D A N C U R RY
T H O M A S G U E VA R A
Chief of Staff to the
R E N E E G R E E N
L A U R A
C O L E
D i r e c t o r
B i b l i o T e c h
M A R K G A G E R
Chief IT Officer
Infor mation Technology
R E N E E WAT S O N
M O N I C A
R A M O S
Small, Minority & Women
Owned Business Enterprise
P u b l i c I n f o r m a t i o n
O f f i c e r
B E T T Y B U E C H E
Bexar Heritage & Parks Office
K Y L E
C O L E M A N
E m e r g a n c y M a n a g e r
S E T H M CCABE
7 2 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
B E X A R C O U N T Y H I S T O R I C A L C O M M I S S I O N
• Dr. Felix D. Almaraz, Jr. (Chair)
• Dan Arellano
• Hector J. Cardenas
• Joseph DeLeon
• Angelica Docog
• Alan Ernst
• Dr. Francis X. Galan
• Mickey Killian
• Clinton M. McKenzie
• Sue Ann Pemberton
• Dr. Amy Porter
• Jesus R. “Corky” Rubio
• Dr. Scott J. Baird
• Dr. David Carlson
• Frank Faulkner
• Jose G. Jimenez
• Brother Edward J. Loch, S.M.
• Dr. Sharon Skrobarcek
• Gary W. Houston
• Virginia S. Nicholas
A p p e n d i x F 7 3
7 4 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
N e l s o n a n d Tr a c y W o l f f a r e e s p e c i a l l y g r a t e f u l t o t h e l e g a l
p r o f e s s i o n a l s w h o m a d e t h i s b o o k p o s s i b l e a s o u r
f i n a n c i a l u n d e r w r i t e r s .
E a c h u n d e r w r i t e r i s f e a t u r e d i n t h i s s e c t i o n w i t h a p r o f i l e
o f t h e i r l a w f i r m .
U n d e r w r i t e r s F 7 5
Drawing on a long and successful career in
business, law, government and education, John
T. Montford established his own consulting and
lobbying firm, JTM Consulting, LLC, in 2010.
A graduate of the University of Texas–Austin
and the UT law school, Montford’s professional
career began as an officer in the U.S. Marine
Corps. Following his active duty tour, Montford
launched his legal career in Lubbock, eventually
winning office as district attorney where he
earned a reputation for being especially tough
on violent offenders.
His success as district attorney propelled
Montford to the Texas Senate, where he served
with distinction for 14 years and was regularly
recognized as one the “Top 10 Best Legislators.”
Montford was the driving force behind several
important pieces of legislation critical to the
state. He sponsored 520 bills, including a
statewide water plan, a civil justice reform
package, reform of the “Deceptive Trade
Practices Act,” tort reform, insurance reform,
reform of the workers’ compensation system,
and bills to support higher education.
In 1996, Montford was selected as the first
chancellor of the Texas Tech University System
in a move that attracted attention because the
university went outside of academia to fill the
position. His successful tenure as chancellor
proved the wisdom of that decision. He elevated
the university’s academic standing and
recognition, established records in raising funds,
facilitated $1 billion in new construction and
campus upgrades, and guided the university’s
overall growth. Following completion of his
services as chancellor, Montford was named
chancellor emeritus in 2002.
In 2001, Montford was recruited by SBC
Communications to lead the company’s
legislative and regulatory affairs in Texas and
twelve other states. Following the merger of SBC
and AT&T, in 2007, he was promoted to
president–western region for the new AT&T,
responsible for states west of the Mississippi. He
became senior vice president, state legislative
affairs for AT&T in 2008.
At AT&T, Montford helped shepherd passage of
landmark legislation, including major regulatory
reform bills enabling telecommunications
companies to compete on a level playing field as
well as enter new markets, such as video services.
In Texas, he led the team that secured passage of
video franchise reform legislation, the first of its
kind in the country. This paved the way for
passage of subsequent video franchise reform in
every other state within AT&T territory for which
he provided oversight.
In 2010, Montford was hired by General
Motors Company as senior advisor for
government relations and global public policy to
help rebuild the new GM. He served as a
member of the GM Executive Committee and
chairman of the board of the General Motors
Foundation in 2010 and 2011. He reorganized
GM Public Policy Teams into four groups—
federal, state, international, and GM Foundation.
This resulted in substantial cost savings, more
accountability, and demonstrable results for each
team. Montford instituted effective legislative
and regulatory teams for Congress and all fifty
states and established signature programs for the
GM Foundation, including the “Buick Achievers”
National Scholarship Program.
In addition to delivering hundreds of speeches
in public life, academia and business, Montford
has written or co-authored several significant
legal books and articles, and written forwards for
books on Texas history. His most recent
publication, Board Games…Straight Talk for New
Directors and Good Governance with co-author Joe
McCool, is a comprehensive work about the
many aspects, responsibilities and challenges of
serving as a member of boards of directors for
“for-profit” publicly listed companies.
Montford has also established himself as an
energetic and successful leader of many nonprofit
business and civic organizations. He
served as 2005 chairman for the Greater San
Antonio Chamber of Commerce, and was
chairman of the board of the San Antonio
Economic Development Foundation in 2006
and 2007. He is former president of the board of
the National Western Art Foundation, for which
he personally secured the lead gift to create the
Dolph and Janey Briscoe National Western Art
Museum in San Antonio. Among many other
accomplishments, Montford served as chair of
the Texas State Parks Advisory Committee from
2006 to 2009.
Montford’s spouse, Debbie, attended Texas
Tech University and the University of Texas. She
is an energetic community volunteer, an effective
7 6 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
advocate for the arts, and a philanthropist. She is
a former chair of the Dolph and Janey Briscoe
Western Art Museum Board of Directors and
continues to serve on its advisory board. She was
chair of the board of the San Antonio Symphony
and was appointed by the governor of Texas to
the board of regents of the Texas Tech University
System, and she has also served on the board of
governors for the Cancer Therapy Research
Center in San Antonio. In 2010, Debbie was
honored by the Greater San Antonio Chamber of
Commerce with the Hope Award for
philanthropic fundraising. Presently she serves
on the Texas Humanities Board.
John and Debbie have three children. Mindy
is first assistant district attorney for Travis
County; Melonie started her own fitness and
health business in 2012 after serving with the
law firm of Baker, Botts, LLP; and John Ross,
MD, a board-certified nephrologist, is an
assistant professor at the University of Colorado
John T. Montford.
COURTESY OF FRANK CARNAGGIO.
U n d e r w r i t e r s F 7 7
From top to bottom:
Richard C. Danysh.
Leslie Selig Byrd.
James P. Plummer.
William T. Avila.
A small law firm that that had a modest
beginning nearly seventy-five years ago is now an
international powerhouse with more than 350
lawyers and offices in New York, Washington,
San Antonio, Hartford, Dallas, and Austin, as well
as overseas offices in London and Dubai.
It all started in November 1945, when two
brothers—Searcy and Fentress Bracewell—just
home from their service in World War II, joined
their father, J. S. Bracewell, and Judge Bert Tunks
to form a new law firm named Bracewell & Tunks.
Searcy Bracewell was elected to the Texas
Senate in 1946, representing Harris County. He
ultimately became the majority leader of the
Senate. The development of the new law firm was
led by Fentress Bracewell.
Harry W. Patterson joined the firm in 1951. In
1966, the firm was renamed Bracewell & Patterson.
It became known as Bracewell LLP in 2016.
From the beginning, the Bracewells understood
that for their firm to succeed they needed to
maintain a relentless focus on professional excellence.
As they dreamed of building a larger law
firm, they also understood that the firm’s roots
needed to be deeply embedded in a culture
emphasizing personal relationships and teamwork.
Based on Bracewell’s great success as a
statewide and community leader before the war,
the Bracewells believed that a commitment to
public and community service should be a key
component of their firm. This commitment to
professional excellence, to personal relationships
and teamwork, and to public and community
service, remain the firm’s cornerstones.
Bracewell’s reputation for professional excellence
began in the courtroom. Bracewell was well
known as a fierce and relentless litigator, and the
post-war era saw the firm assume and extend that
reputation. The firm’s reputation for professional
excellence grew from insurance defense to labor,
tax, condemnation and business litigation. In the
1960s and early 1970s, the growing Texas economy
began to attract business enterprises from all
over the world, as well as financing from money
center banks. Bracewell’s litigation practice evolved
during this period and the firm was involved in a
number of large-scale commercial disputes.
As the energy and financial services sectors
grew dramatically in Texas during the 1970s,
Bracewell’s reputation for professional excellence
attracted clients focused on transactional and
7 8 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
commercial matters. This inspired the firm to grow
its transactional practice. In the mid-1970s, the
firm began adding like-minded partners focused
on corporate transactions and bank finance.
Bracewell’s reputation in the courtroom was soon
matched by a growing reputation for handling
major M&A transactions and complex financings.
Bracewell’s reputation and size grew in
the 1970s and 1980s. The firm’s geographic reach
expanded to serve an increasingly diverse client
base. New offices were opened throughout Texas
and in Washington, DC, anchored by long-time
Bracewell partners and new lateral partners.
As the world’s economy became increasingly
globalized, Bracewell’s partners recognized the
need to distinguish the firm among elite law firms.
This challenge was successfully met by focusing on
the firm’s strengths in core industries—energy,
infrastructure, finance and technology–along with
strategic practice areas such as public finance, government
relations, financial restructuring, commercial
litigation, real estate and white-collar defense.
This led to an expansion of the firm’s footprint to
include ten offices located in Texas, New York City,
Seattle, Hartford, London, and Dubai.
Bracewell’s culture today embodies the original
commitments made by the Bracewells and
the distinguished lawyers who followed them—
professional excellence, personal relationships
and teamwork—and a shared commitment to
public and community service.
Bracewell lawyers have been recognized by
their peers with membership in a number of prestigious
groups, including the American College of
Trial Lawyers, the International Academy of Trial
Lawyers, the American Board of Trial Advocates,
the American College of Bond Counsel, and the
International Insolvency Institute, among others.
In addition, many Bracewell lawyers and practice
groups are recognized by virtually every prestigious
legal ranking organization in the United
States, United Kingdom and the Middle East.
Bracewell partners and other senior lawyers
have served in the U.S. Senate and House of
Representatives and as the governor of Texas, as
ambassadors, and as federal judges. They have also
served as regents of several leading public universities
and as chairpersons of some of the most
important state and municipal regulatory agencies.
The San Antonio office of Bracewell includes
ten lawyers, and the firm is active in the San
Antonio community. The firm hosts a firm-wide
Day of Service in observance of Martin Luther
King, Jr. Day and is also involved in the San
Antonio Food Bank Community Garden.
Bracewell is grounded in a strong and unwavering
commitment to a culture of professional
excellence, teamwork and personal relationships
based on trust among all Bracewell lawyers and
staff. The firm carries this emphasis on teamwork
and transparency into its relationships
with its associates, counsel, staff and—most
From top to bottom:
Jane H. Macon.
James H. Kizziar, Jr.
Carey R. Troell.
U n d e r w r i t e r s F 7 9
For nearly sixty years, a firm founded on a
handshake has provided expert legal assistance
for all individuals, without regard to race,
gender, religion, civic, and/or political affiliation.
This long record of professional service has made
Nicholas & Barrera, P.C. one of the most
successful and respected law firms in Texas.
As experienced trial lawyers, Nicholas &
Barrera represents clients in a wide variety of
litigation matters, including criminal trial
defense, civil litigation, state and federal
criminal appeals, personal injury and wrongful
death, and family/divorce law/custody matters,
wills and probate.
It all began in 1951 when Anthony Nicholas
and Roy R. Barrera, Sr., were assistant district
attorneys with the Bexar County District
Attorney’s office under Austin Anderson. After
several years with the D.A.’s office, Roy decided
it was time to open his own office. When he
informed his friend “Nic” of his plans to leave,
Nic suggested he “think of it over for a time
before leaving.” Roy replied that Nic had about
ten minutes to think about joining him because
he had already turned in his resignation! On a
handshake, Roy and Anthony became full
partners under the condition that everything
would be split fifty-fifty, all income and
expenses would be shared equally. This
relationship lasted more than fifty years until
Nic’s death in 2011. Research reveals this was
the oldest unchanged legal partnership in the
By 1968, the partnership was on a firm
footing and Anthony directed the firm while
Roy accepted an appointment from then
Governor John Connally. Roy was named
Secretary of State to fill the unexpired term of
Secretary John Hill, who had vacated the office
to run for governor. To the delight of his wife,
Carmen, Roy and Carmen acted as official hosts
of the world’s Visiting Dignitaries to Hemisfair
68, most notably, Prince Rainier, III and Princess
Grace (Kelly) of Monaco.
From its beginnings, Nicholas & Barrera has
been involved in a number of high-profile cases
that have attracted national attention, some of
which have gone all the way to the U.S.
Shortly after their departure from the
D.A.’s office, a case Roy had handled as an
assistant D.A. went to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The D.A. asked Roy to defend his position
in the case of Alcorta v. State of Texas and make
the oral argument before the nation’s highest
court. In this case, a man had been convicted of
murdering his wife, but claimed it occurred in a
fit of passion. The court held that the
petitioner was denied due process of law and
the case was remanded.
Roy was part of the defense team that tried a
case in state court where, for the first time, a
corporation, rather than an individual, was
charged with murder. In this 1985 case,
documented in the book Death Without Dignity,
the State of Texas charged Autumn Hills
8 0 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
Nursing Home and five of its executives with
the murder of an eighty-seven-year-old woman.
The six-month-long jury trial, one of the longest
in Texas history, resulted from charges that the
nursing home had mistreated and abused its
patients. The book focuses on sixty-four
patients and how they died while in the care of
the facility. In a review of the book, the Houston
Post wrote, “The reader is left to decide if this
was a prosecution or—as the defense insisted—
a persecution. The Autumn Hills Nursing Home
case ended in a mistrial.
Roy also defended Woodrow Collums, an
elderly client, who entered his brother’s
nursing home where he lay in a vegetative
state from Alzheimer’s’ disease and put five
bullets in his head. The 1981 case drew national
attention as a “mercy killing” and focused
attention on the moral dilemma faced by the
relatives of terminally ill people. Cullums
received ten years’ probation.
In another notable case in which Roy was
lead counsel and his youngest son, Bobby,
sat as second chair—the so-called “Craig’s List
Escort” murder trial—the defendant was found
“not guilty” based on “a long-ago written
statute that provides for the justified ‘use of
force’ to prevent a theft of property in the
night.” Roy and Bobby debated for months prior
to trial the avenue most judicious and
expeditious for the defense of the murder
charge—it was papa’s defense theory that hit the
nail on the head.
Roy Barrera, Sr. and his son, Roy Barrera, Jr.,
are on opposite sides of the political spectrum,
but live and work together in complete harmony.
Roy, Sr. is a lifetime Democrat while Roy, Jr. was
appointed to a State District Court bench by
then Governor Bill Clements, a Republican.
Another son, Gilbert E. Barrera, also attended
law school but followed his passion for art and
became a noted sculptor, instead. He was selected
by the Hidalgo Foundation to restore a centuryold
fountain and create a new “Lady Justice” for
the crown of the fountain now installed in front
of the Bexar County Courthouse, the state’s
largest and oldest courthouse.
Currently, Nicholas & Barrera includes nine
attorneys who are individual practitioners—sons
Roy R. Barrera, Jr., and Robert J. “Bobby” Barrera,
and grandsons Roy R. Barrera III and Mark
Joseph Barrera, along with Roy Barrera, Sr., make
up the backbone of the office. Roy, Sr., now
ninety-two years old, likes to joke that he could
found a bar association all by himself. Two sons,
5 grandchildren, 3 nephews, a great nephew, and
2 grandsons-in-law all became attorneys.
Also following family work traditions, Roy
Sr.’s youngest daughter, Carmen Alice, a former
Administrative Assistant for then U.S. District
Judge H. F. “Hippo” Garcia, has for the past
nineteen years, worked for her father as a legal
secretary and maintained the family Law
Offices. Nicholas & Barrera is definitely one
dedicated “family affair.”
U n d e r w r i t e r s F 8 1
Top: J. Russell Davis.
Middle: Ricardo Cedillo.
Bottom: Ron Mendoza.
The lunch meeting Russell Davis and Ricardo
Cedillo had at El Mirador Restaurant in San
Antonio back in 1986 changed their lives and
was the genesis of a new law firm, Davis &
The firm has deep roots in San Antonio. Russell
Davis, a Jefferson High School and University of
Texas (UT) undergrad and Law School graduate;
Cedillo, a product of Holy Cross High School, St.
Mary’s and Harvard Law School; and Norman
Davis, also from the UT Law School, and a wellrespected
business lawyer in San Antonio for over
fifty years, were the founding partners.
They left larger firms and knew they wanted
their new law firm to meet their client’s needs
with uncompromising quality and integrity.
Even more, they wanted their clients to have
unquestioned value in the work they received.
Also vital was an environment where they
would enjoy coming to work and be proud of
the services the firm provides to its clients.
Today, Davis, Cedillo & Mendoza, Inc.
concentrates its areas of practice around the
strengths of its three name partners, Cedillo in
commercial litigation; Davis in business
transactional matters with an emphasis on real
estate; and Ron Mendoza, in insurance defense.
Mendoza, like Cedillo, is a Holy Cross High
School alumnus, and is a UT undergrad and
Law School graduate as well. He joined the firm
in 1991, after years as a felony prosecutor in the
Bexar County District Attorney’s Office,
bringing substantial trial experience to
insurance defense. Additional shareholders of
the firm are Les J. Strieber III, Derick J. Rodgers,
Brian L. Lewis and Brandy C. Peery.
The firm’s top-quality real estate clients have
been involved in a number of major
developments in San Antonio. These clients see
DC&MDavis, Cedillo and Medoza as trusted
advisors with a deep understanding of business
issues. The firm’s insurance defense practice is
thriving as well, handling complex cases for
some of the top names in the industry.
DC&MDavis, Cedillo & Mendoza enjoys
great success in commercial litigation. Because
of the way its commercial litigation teams are
organized, with lead counsel supported by a
detail-driven team of lawyers and staff,
DC&MDavis, Cedillo & Mendoza can be
devastatingly effective, yet far more economical
8 2 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
than its national competition. Its successes for
national and international clients have been
high profile. Most notable may be the $624-
million verdict for Valores Corporativos, a
Mexican wholesale grocer and distributor
against Wal-Mart and a judgment on behalf of
HouseCanary, Inc. against Title Source, Inc. for
Thirty-Two years after its founding, Davis,
Cedillo & Mendoza, Inc. is still focused on its
original goals. The firm’s diversity reflects the
diversity of Bexar County, and its success is
clearly the result of a formula that has worked
Top: Brandon Strey, Courtney Gaines
and Charles Cantu.
Middle: Susan Holt, J. Russell Davis,
Bottom: Derick Rodgers, Les Strieber
and Brian Lewis.
U n d e r w r i t e r s F 8 3
Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP is
the largest national law firm that focuses on
collection of government receivables. The firm’s
goal is total client satisfaction, which is achieved
by tailoring comprehensive services to the
client’s criteria, retaining professional and
courteous legal and collection personnel,
developing and supporting the most advanced
collection technology systems available, and
maintaining personal communication with its
clients and the communities they serve.
The firm’s history dates from 1976 when the
State of Texas first allowed cities and school
districts to hire private attorneys to collect taxes
and other receivables. To provide these services,
Chester Young, Larry Calame and Dale Linebarger
established the law firm Young Calame &
Linebarger as a limited liability partnership.
Also instrumental in establishment of the
firm was Oliver S. Heard, who was a founder
and managing partner. An established leader in
advancing the legal profession, Heard brought
more than 20 years experience to the new firm.
He was known as the ‘King of Tax Collections in
Texas’ and was named one of the 20th century’s
top 102 lawyers in a special publication entitled
Legal Legends: A Century of Texas Law and
Lawyers. Heard died in 2000.
The firm’s San Antonio roots date from 1980
and the firm of Heard Goggan and Blair. Bexar
County hired the firm in that year, becoming the
first large metropolitan authority in Texas to hire
an outside law firm to collect delinquent ad
valorem taxes. That partnership between the
firm and Bexar County has culminated in one of
the nation’s best tax collection programs for a
metropolitan community. The delinquent tax
collection program developed in Bexar County is
now used by more than 1,700 entities across
Texas, including Dallas County, Harris County,
and Tarrant County.
A Fees and Fines Collection program was also
begun in Bexar County in 2006. This collection
program became the basis of a national model
and clients now include the cities of Chicago,
Houston, Philadelphia, Austin, Columbus, and
In 2002, the firm changed its name to
Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, LLP.
Several founding partners retired in 2006 and
a new Management Committee, composed of
21 capital partners, assumed leadership.
DeMetris Sampson served as the new MC’s
first chair and Clif Douglass of San Antonio
assumed the role in 2007, a position he
continues to hold.
8 4 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson
maintains 46 law offices, eight call centers, and
one information technology center located
throughout the nation. The firm is headquartered
From the day the partnership with Bexar
County was established in 1980, the San Antonio
operations—with a combined 292 employees—
has become a centralized component of the firm,
supporting growth and expansion throughout the
United States. Today, in addition to the 62
employees in its downtown San Antonio office,
Linebarger employs more than 160 professional
staff locally at its national informational
technology operation. San Antonio is also home
to a national call center employing more than 70
individuals. These two major offices, along with a
downtown collection operations office, provide a
growing and reliable source of revenue for Bexar
County, the City of San Antonio, and all the local
Last year, Linebarger managed more than $10
billion in delinquent government receivables
and generated approximately $1 billion in
revenue for state and local governments. The
firm serves more than 2,500 government entities
in 26 states and has the ability to recover
receivables from delinquent account holders in
every state in the nation. The firm is licensed
and/or authorized to collect in all 50 states,
Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Linebarger’s success has garnered numerous
important awards and citations over the
decades. U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM)
awarded the firm its highest Public Private
Partnership award—the Award for Excellence—
in 2001 for its work with the City of Dallas. The
firm received its second Public-Private
Partnership Award from USCM in 2004, this
time for work with the City of Chicago.
Linebarger received its fourth, and recordbreaking,
Public Private Partnership Award for
Outstanding Achievement in 2010 for its work
with the City of Port Arthur.
The 2018 National Law Journals Women in
Law Scorecard ranked Linebarger number one
in Texas and 15th nationally among the largest
U.S. law firms with the highest percentage of
women lawyers and partners.
Linebarger and its employees support
hundreds of charitable, community and cultural
organizations throughout Bexar County. Some
of the organizations supported over the last five
years include the Bexar County BiblioTech
Digital Library; Bexar County Child Welfare
Board; Bexar County Family Justice Center
Foundation; Hidalgo Foundation; San Antonio
Youth Literacy; Tobin Center; United Way of
San Antonio; as well as the educational
foundations for all of the local school districts.
Nationwide, Linebarger employs more than
1,250 professionals, including more than 100
attorneys, 300 collectors, and 160 IT staff. The
firm continues to expand and grow steadily into
areas where clients require its services.
U n d e r w r i t e r s F 8 5
Growing up in San Antonio, both Baltazar
and Cesar Serna knew from an early age that
they wanted to become lawyers. The brothers
have now worked side-by-side for 27 years and
their law firm has become one of the busiest and
most respected in Bexar County.
The brothers graduated from Thomas Edison
High School in San Antonio and, encouraged by
their parents, decided to enter the law profession.
“Our father worked at the Kelly Air Force Base
but had always wanted to be a lawyer,” Baltazar
explains. “He and our mother always encouraged
our interest in law and were very supportive of
Baltazar Serna received a Bachelor of Arts in
Public Justice degree from St. Mary’s University in
1984 and went on to earn his law degree at the
Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston. A
practicing attorney for 35 years, Baltazar specializes
in Civil and Criminal litigation, and representation
for municipalities and governmental bodies, which
includes a public affairs practice at the local, state
and federal levels.
Cesar Serna received his B.A. in Criminal
Justice from the University of Texas at San Antonio
and his law degree from the Thurgood Marshall
School of Law. Cesar specializes in civil and
criminal law and also handles family law matters.
The firm of Serna & Serna believes in
focusing on a few specific areas of the law, and
concentrates on providing outstanding legal
advice for each client. The practice focuses on
representing clients in legal matters related to
personal injury, criminal charges, divorces and
municipal law issues.
“We’re not a big firm on purpose,” says
Baltazar. “When a client hires us, they get us.
We don’t turn matters over to some assistant
who does all the work.”
Serna & Serna has the experience to help
clients sort out their particular legal issues related
to anything from criminal cases to government
contracts. The firm handles all forms of personal
injury matters, including car and truck accidents,
premises liability and wrongful death. Baltazar
and Cesar Serna understand what their clients are
facing during these difficult times, including the
overwhelming medical bills, time lost at work,
and other financial impacts that make such
accidents more devastating. They do everything
within their power to right these wrongs and help
their clients make the fullest recovery possible.
Since its formation in 1992, Serna & Serna
has defended people throughout South Texas
against a host of different criminal charges,
including domestic violence, DWI and repeat
8 6 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
DWI, theft, white collar crime, traffic violations,
probation revocation, and assault and battery.
The firm also offers warrant information and
bail bond assistance, expungement and motions
In the area of municipal law, Serna & Serna
represents businesses, developers and investors
in legal disputes and matters before city and
county government bodies. Serna & Serna has
represented some of the biggest and most
noteworthy companies in South Texas. The firm’s
long list of clients includes the San Antonio Spurs
professional basketball team, Landry’s, Bexar
County Government, City of San Antonio, City
Public Service, Brooks Development Authority,
San Antonio Port Authority and the San Antonio
Water System. He represents entities at the local,
state and federal level before the government. For
example, Baltazar was instrumental in helping
the City of San Antonio secure funding from the
federal government for the new federal
courthouse now being built.
Both Baltazar and Cesar are deeply involved in
non-profit organizations such as Rey Feo Consejo,
which helps raise money for high school seniors,
and the Fiesta Commission. Baltazar is presidentelect
of the Fiesta Commission.
Baltazar and his wife, Deborah, have two
children and Cesar and his wife, Jessica, have
Cesar is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys
hiking and biking in Texas and Colorado. Baltazar
enjoys physical fitness, playing basketball,
attending sports events and spending time with
When dealing with complex legal issues, it
is imperative that you hire a team of attorneys
that has the experience and knowledge to
represent you in any number of legal disputes.
Serna & Serna has handled countless cases for a
variety of different clients throughout South
Texas. To learn more, check their website at
www.sernaserna.com. Serna & Serna is located at
237 W. Travis Street, Ste 100.
U n d e r w r i t e r s F 8 7
Above: Pablo Escamilla.
Right: Douglas Poneck.
Inspired by 1960s activism to improve the
plight of Hispanic students in Edgewood
Independent School District, then the poorest
school district in Texas, Pablo Escamilla delayed
his dream of attending law school and, instead,
ran—and was elected—for the Edgewood
School Board. Pablo’s service on the board lasted
a decade and during that time Pablo and the
school district led the fight for Texas school
finance reform. This resulted in Edgewood v.
Kirby, the landmark Texas Supreme Court
litigation that attempted to remedy the historic
inequity of school funding across the state.
Belatedly, Pablo realized his dream of
attending law school and becoming a lawyer.
After a four-year stint with the school law firm
of Schulman, Walheim, Beck and Heidelberg,
Pablo organized his own law firm.
About this same time, Douglas Poneck had
graduated from college and law school in quick
succession and became a first-year associate
with a venerable and long-established San
Antonio law firm. The economic recession of the
early 1990s led to a downsizing of the law firm
and Doug found himself in dire need of a job.
With little experience, but a lot of hunger, Doug
met with Pablo at a friend’s suggestion to see if
he might be hiring for his new firm. The two
men hit it off immediately.
Pablo and Doug found they had a lot in
common. They had similar backgrounds and
their fathers worked as civil servants at Kelly Air
Force Base. They also shared a strong belief that
serving others was an important part of being a
lawyer. Both also saw that the San Antonio legal
community was not very diverse, though the
boards of governmental entities serving them
were becoming more so. As a philosophical and
business matter, both understood that the San
Antonio legal community was sorely in need of
minority-owned law firms that represented
these more diverse and progressive
Although they shared a passion for
representing their community, Pablo was in no
position to hire anyone, having just ventured
out on his own, so Doug started his own office
and took on indigent defendant/criminal court
appointments for $100 per assignment. It wasn’t
glamourous work, but it paid the bills. Pablo
was able to refer some cases to Doug, and
impressed at how well he accomplished his
work, Pablo suggested that Doug could save
some money on rent if he moved into his offices.
The relationship grew, and the two lawyers
became partners in November, 1991.
To be sure, Pablo Escamilla and Douglas
Poneck founded Escamilla & Poneck, LLP on
8 8 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
their belief that government clients should
have excellent legal representation if they are
to be effective in fulfilling their mission and
serve the public good. Further, the firm’s
lawyers do not simply represent its
governmental clients as a business proposition.
Instead, they work to represent such clients
because if fulfills serving the communities that
have entrusted them.
Since it’s founding, Escamilla & Poneck, LLP
has become a dynamic, full-service, 100%
minority-owned law firm with offices in San
Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston,
and Monroe, Louisiana.
Escamilla & Poneck has grown and
diversified in an effort to support various clients
across Texas and Louisiana with responsive inperson
services. It provides a variety of legal
services, including a number of general counsel
services (i.e. services related to the particular
subject areas of the governments represented),
litigation, bond counsel and government
relations before the Texas legislature.
Escamilla & Poneck primarily represents
governmental entities throughout Texas. In
particular, the firm is very experienced in
working with school boards, but also represent
other kinds of boards, including boards of
housing authorities, workforce development
entities, urban renewal agencies, utilities, cities,
counties, special-purpose districts and various
In short, the firm’s greatest strengths are its
breadth and diversity of experience in
representing governmental entities along a
broad spectrum, with an emphasis on legal
services needed to serve those entities. The
firm has also established a highly collaborative
working environment in which attorneys and
staff all participate to provide clients highly
responsive and effective legal service. In the
end, the lawyers of Escamilla & Poneck feel
that governmental entities ultimately serve
the law and the public, their actions should
be transparent and accountable, from top
Escamilla & Poneck has been a leader in
promoting diversity within the Texas legal
community. When Pablo and Doug established
the firm nearly 30 years ago, there were very few
minority owned firms that served governmental
entities. Since then, many of the firms that
provide similar services have added diversity
to their teams of lawyers, and some firms
have even shared ownership with minority
lawyers. The firm may not be as unique in the
industry as it was, but the partners feel that’s a
U n d e r w r i t e r s F 8 9
Left: Mikal C. Watts.
Right: Francisco Guerra, IV.
Watts Guerra LLP, headquartered in San
Antonio, is a true nationwide litigation practice.
The firm’s trial lawyers handle some of the
largest cases nationwide for catastrophic injury
and death, product liability, commercial
litigation, and mass torts.
Watts Guerra attorneys have taken on and
defeated many of the largest and most powerful
corporations in America, yielding substantial
verdicts and settlements and, more importantly,
greater consumer safety for everyone. Watts
Guerra’s record prompted the National Law
Journal to comment, “Watts has established a
record as one of the most effective plaintiffs trail
lawyers in the United States.”
Among the many successful cases litigated
was the first trail in the nation challenging the
safety of the drug Levaquin, used to treat a
variety of bacterial infections. The hotly
contested trial included some of the finest
defense lawyers in the nation and both sides
put forth extensive evidence, studies and
expert testimony to prove their cases. The
defense fought hard until closing arguments to
persuade the jury that Levaquin was a safe drug.
Thanks to the efforts of Mikal Watts and others
involved in the trial, the defense arguments fell
on deaf ears. The jury deliberated for less
than two days before awarding $7 million in
actual damages to the plaintiff who had been
injured as a result of his use of Levaquin. The
jury deliberated only a couple more hours
before awarding the injured plaintiff an
additional $1.1 million in punitive damages.
Watts Guerra trial lawyers led the nation in
representing people maimed or killed by
defective Firestone tires and unstable Ford
Explorers. The firm also represented a
pharmaceutical victim whose liver was
destroyed by the diabetes drug Rezulin and won
an award for three clients from Sulzer Medica by
proving that defective hip implants led to
painful extraction and revision surgeries.
Results such as this are common for clients of
Watts Guerra, which employs a team of
seasoned attorneys across cities in Texas and
California. With a main office in the Dominion
in San Antonio and a mass tort office near
the city’s medical center, Watts Guerra
boasts one of the larger, more experienced
plaintiff-side lawyer rosters in the country,
with some of the best trial lawyers in their
respective areas of practice. The firm also
maintains offices in Austin, Brownsville,
Corpus Christi, and Odessa, Texas, and Santa
Rosa and Chico, California to provide premier
The lawyers of Watts Guerra have a proven
track record of serious, high-value results
and believe in their ability to win each
case. Because of this, the firm accepts all of
its cases on a contingency fee basis—clients do
not owe anything unless the firm recovers on
9 0 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
The firm is headed by Mikal C. Watts and
Francisco “Frank” Guerra, IV.
A native of Corpus Christi, Watts earned his
undergraduate degree from the University of
Texas in 1987, receiving a bachelor of arts
with high honors after only two years of study.
He then graduated with honors from the
University of Texas School of Law at the age of
twenty-one. After working as a briefing
attorney for the Chief Justice of the Supreme
Court of Texas, Watts became a partner in a
Corpus Christi law firm before establishing his
own firm in 1997.
In 2002, Watts joined forces with Frank
Guerra to form Watts Guerra LLP to handle
catastrophic personal injury, toxic torts, product
liability, automotive defects, refinery negligence,
commercial trucking negligence, medical device,
pharmaceutical and commercial litigation.
Guerra, who serves as managing partner in
the San Antonio office, received his bachelor
of ats from Texas A&M University, where he
served as commander of Squadron 15 and was the
first Hispanic commander of the elite
Ross Volunteer Company. He then
attended the University of Texas School of
Law, where he received his doctor of
jurisprudence. During law school, Guerra
served as Intern to Justice John Cornyn of
the Supreme Court of Texas. He also
served as an Intern to the late professor
Charles Alan Wright, considered the
foremost authority in the U.S. on
Constitutional law and federal procedure.
Guerra has served on the Malpractice,
Premises & Products Pattern Jury
Charge Committee for the State Bar of
Texas. Since joining Watts, he has
litigated, tried and arbitrated cases
throughout the nation.
Watts Guerra is composed of a team of
skilled attorneys with a devotion to personal
attention and a commitment to achieving the
highest levels of service. The firm has strength
in numbers and in talent and the results speak
for themselves. Watts Guerra’s resources are
larger than most firms, enabling them to invest
tens of millions of dollars at once to battle the
largest corporations in the world. Watts works
for its clients, employing the best experts and
using the most up-to-date technology available.
The firm even employs full-time pilots to fly
private planes on a moment’s notice, enabling its
lawyers to meet quickly with clients and travel
easily to depositions, mediations and trials
across the country.
The lawyers of Watts Guerra LLP have beaten
the largest and most powerful corporations in
America, yielding substantial verdicts and
settlements and more importantly, greater
consumer safety for everyone.
For more information, consult the firm’s
website at wattsguerra.com.
U n d e r w r i t e r s F 9 1
GUNN, LEE &
Left: Ted Lee.
Right: John C. Cave.
The law firm of Gunn, Lee & Cave has deep
ties to San Antonio and is focused on protecting
proprietary thinking, inventions, works and trade
secrets. Reflecting the company motto, “Your
Ideas Are Our Specialty,” each attorney is an
expert in both acquiring and litigating intellectual
property, including post grant proceedings.
Ted Lee, a graduate of Notre Dame Law
School, began his career as a patent agent for the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration,
working on the Saturn Apollo program. Some of
the early patent applications prosecuted by Lee
were used in putting a man on the moon.
Before moving to San Antonio in 1973 and
establishing a private practice, Lee served as a
JAG officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.
On April 1, 1977 Ted Lee and Don Gunn
established the firm of Gunn & Lee. Lee headed
the office in San Antonio and Gunn was in
charge of an office in Houston. The firm, which
has always specialized in intellectual property,
grew rapidly and soon employed about 12
attorneys in each office.
The Houston office closed after Gunn passed
away in 1999. John Cave joined the firm in 2000.
John Cave, a San Antonio native, received a
B.S. degree in mechanical engineering from Texas
A&M University and his law degree from Texas
Tech University. During his engineering career,
Cave assisted in the development of a computer
program to calculate stresses in various
components of an aircraft and was involved in
the design of pumps and gas compressors for
various applications in the oil fields. This
background gave Cave a deep understanding of
the importance of intellectual property.
The firm’s reputation got a big boost in the
early 1980s when it was involved in an
intellectual property theft case that attracted
national attention. It began when two
employees of the Pace Picante Sauce company
left and set up a competing company, allegedly
using a picante sauce recipe identical to that
used in the Pace product. Pace sued the
employees for theft of the secret formula for
Pace Picante Sauce. Although all picante sauce
uses the same six basic ingredients, Pace argued
that the way the ingredients were measured and
mixed made their product unique and the
recipe could not be copied.
“We had been trying the case two or three days
and had jars and jars of various picante sauces
lined up in front of the jury when a newspaper
reporter happened by the courtroom,” explains
Lee. The reporter asked what was going on and
after I told him, the front page of next day’s
edition of the Express-News carried the headline,
“Hot Sauce Case Heats Up.” Other papers picked
up the story and for several days the picante
sauce trial was on everybody’s lips. Lee recalls
that a sensational murder trial was going on at the
same time, but reporters were leaving the murder
trial to cover the picante sauce war. “When a
juror got sick and missed a day, one of the papers
9 2 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
headlined, ‘Juror Can’t Stomach Hot Sauce
Case’,” Lee recalls.
The two disgruntled employees were found not
to have used the secret Pace recipe. The verdict
made news all across the nation. “It’s the best
publicity we could ever have gotten,” says Lee.
As an intellectual property law firm, Gunn,
Lee & Cave is involved with patents,
trademarks, copyrights, contracts, and trade
secrets. Each of the firm’s attorneys is
experienced in both acquiring and litigating
intellectual property, including post grant
proceedings. Lee points out that it is unusual for
an intellectual property law firm to both
prosecute and litigate cases.
Gunn, Lee & Cave currently has a staff of 16,
including 8 attorneys. In addition to Lee and Cave,
the attorneys include Mike Villarreal, Rob McRae,
Ed Marvin, Jason McKinnie, Nick Guinn, and
Brandon Cook. The firm is located in the Callaghan
Tower at 8023 Vantage Drive in San Antonio.
In addition to supporting numerous civic and
charitable causes, Ted Lee is the creator of the skit
presenting Santa Claus on trial in Federal District
Court each Christmas. The trial is based loosely on
the popular holiday movie, Miracle on 34th Street.
“We started the tradition over twenty-five years ago.
This year my four-year-old grandson will testify for
Santa.” Lee explains. “Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts
make up the prosecution team, attempting to prove
that Santa Claus violated a fictitious state statute by
appearing at a public school handing out gifts.
Fourth and fifth-grade elementary school children
make up the jury. An authentic Federal Judge
usually presides over the proceedings.”
Lee reports that Santa usually wins the case but,
several years ago, Santa was convicted. The judge
delivered a Solomon-like decision, ruling that Santa
be placed on probation—until after Christmas.
While Bexar County and San Antonio continue
to change, Gunn, Lee & Cave remains a
consistent, reliable source to protect its clients’
creative endeavors. Ted Lee feels the main reason
Gunn, Lee & Cave has been so successful for
more than forty years is the result of “doing good
work for clients and the clients being happy with
our work.” Lee says the firm’s business comes
from two sources: satisfied customers and
referrals from other law firms familiar with Gunn,
Lee & Cave’s reputation.
Above: (From left to right) Jason
McKinnie, Ed Marvin, and Rob
Below: (From left to right) Mike
Villareal, Brandon Cook, and
U n d e r w r i t e r s F 9 3
Thomas J. Henry Law, PLLC is one of the
nation's leading personal injury firms and is the
largest plaintiff's firm in Texas, employing a
team of more than 150 attorneys and 350
support staff in offices across Texas. In 2019 and
2020, the firm was named one of the nation's
“Best Places to Work” by Glassdoor. This award
is based solely on employee feedback and takes
into account employee satisfaction, career
opportunities, culture and values, and work to
For more than 25 years, Thomas J. Henry
Law, PLLC has provided fierce and steadfast
legal representation to injured clients. Over
that time, the firm has built a reputation for
success in a variety of legal disciplines,
including trucking accidents, company vehicle
accidents, workplace injury, mass tort
litigation, product liability, pharmaceutical
litigation, child injury, and wrongful death.
Thomas J. Henry Law, PLLC has litigated
against some of the largest companies in the
world, including Fortune 500 and Fortune 100
companies, and has achieved numerous
record-breaking awards and settlements.
In 2012, the firm secured the #1 Back Injury
Verdict in the Country, as named by the
National Law Journal. The firm was then
featured in the National Law Journal's Top 100
Verdicts list in both 2012 and 2013. Also, in
2013, the firm was recognized by Verdict Search
as achieving the #1 Workplace Injury Verdict for
the Year, and the firm's founder, Thomas J.
Henry, was named one of the Top 100 Trial
Lawyers by National Trial Lawyers.
In 2015, the firm was awarded the
prestigious Litigator Award for outstanding
achievements in auto accident, personal injury,
catastrophic injury, and negligent security
litigation. The firm secured the #1 Texas Car
Accident Verdict for the year, and Legal Leaders
Magazine recognized firm founder Thomas J.
Henry as one of Texas' Top Rated Lawyers. In
2016, Forbes Magazine featured Thomas J.
Henry as a “Leader in Law.”
In 2017, TopVerdict.com recognized Thomas
J. Henry Law, PLLC as achieving the #1 Texas
Car Accident Verdict, #1 Texas Bus Accident
Verdict, and #1 Texas Negligent Supervision
Verdict for the year. The firm also achieved the
#1 Worker/Workplace Negligence Verdict as
listed by Texas Lawyer.
In 2018, Lawyers of Distinction added
Thomas J. Henry to their list of the nation's
In both 2018 and 2019, Thomas J. Henry was
named the “Best Attorney of San Antonio” by
the San Antonio Current, based on public votes.
In 2019, S.A. Scene Magazine named Thomas J.
Henry one of San Antonio’s Top Personal Injury
Lawyers. Also, in 2019, Thomas J. Henry was
listed in a Bloomberg Businessweek “Clear
Commitment to Client Satisfaction” Feature
and made Newsweek.com’s Premier Law
Thomas J. Henry has also been named a
lifetime member of the Multi-Million Dollar
Advocates Forum, a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the
National Trial Lawyers, and a “Top Birth Injury
Advocate” by Parenting Magazine. He is also a
Lifetime Charter Member of Rue Ratings' Best
Attorneys in America.
9 4 F T H E H E A R T O F B E X A R C O U N T Y
In addition to representing injured victims,
Thomas J. Henry is also dedicated to giving
back to the local and global community. The
firm has an active philanthropy program which
supports causes related to poverty, veterans,
national disaster relief, education, animals, and
The firm has provided support to numerous
national causes, including the American Cancer
Society, American Heart Association, American
Red Cross, and Special Olympics and also
commits significant support to local, San
Antonio-based charities including the San
Antonio Parks Foundation, the Rey Feo
Scholarship Foundation, SA YES Foundation,
St. Mary’s University Alumni Association
Scholarship Program, San Antonio MLK
Foundation, San Antonio River Walk
Association, Elf Louise Christmas Project, San
Antonio Pets Alive (SAPA), Animal Defense
League of Texas, and more.
Throughout the year, the firm sponsors
numerous local little league programs
throughout the San Antonio area and in 2019
launched the viral “Clear the List” campaign to
help San Antonio teachers get much needed
supplies for their classrooms. Every October,
the firm hosts "Bark in the Park," a community
event that raises thousands of dollars for local
pet charities. Each November, the Thomas J.
Henry Turkey Giveaway provides Thanksgiving
turkeys to thousands of families in Texas.
Mr. Henry also consistently contributes to
educational causes. Recently, he made a
substantial donation toward the construction of
a multi-million-dollar tennis facility at Texas
A&M University Corpus Christi. For years, his
iPad giveaway program provided needy students
with computers for school.
In 2019, Thomas J. Henry put on a public
concert for more than 10,000 people in Austin,
Texas to raise money for SAFE Alliance,
Superhero Kids and St. David's Foundation
Thomas J. Henry also serves the nation’s
brightest law students through the Thomas J.
Henry Summer Associate Program—one of the
most competitive and highest payed internships
in the country. The program is dedicated to the
mentoring and development of the next
generation of legal leaders with past participants
hailing from from the Top 10% of their
respective laws schools, including Harvard
School of Law, Columbia School of Law, and
Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.
Since 1993, Thomas J. Henry and his firm
have helped tens of thousands of injured victims
receive justice all the while giving back to the
local community through his many local and
global philanthropic endeavors.
U n d e r w r i t e r s F 9 5
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