Judge Louis A. Bedford, Jr. Law Academy renaming marks the start of a new era


Students, staff and community members gathered to celebrate the renaming of the former William Hawley Atwell Law Academy Saturday, Nov. 12. The school was officially renamed in honor of Louis Bedford, the first Black judge to serve in Dallas County. This milestone celebration featured remarks from two of Bedford’s children, Angela Bedford Walker and Louis A. Bedford III, as well as District 6 Trustee Joyce Foreman, and Deputy Chief of Teaching and Learning Michele Broughton.

“L.A. Bedford was a good man. He loved people and he lived being a servant to others,” said his daughter. 

“[Bedford] graduated from Brooklyn Law School and returned to Dallas because of his loyalty and dedication to his family and to try and make a difference to the legal system of Texas,” added Bedford III.

Louis A. Bedford graduated from Booker T. Washington High School at the age of 16 and his wife, Velma Bates Bedford, was a Dallas ISD teacher for 34 years. His son said his father was popularly known as “the Godfather” because he believed it was important to pass on his knowledge to other Black lawyers in Dallas. He also helped organize voting rights campaigns at New Hope Baptist Church and met with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to raise voting rights awareness. 

Trustee Foreman said that he was a history maker in many ways and worked with Thurgood Marshall in 1954 on the first desegregation case to take place in Dallas. In 1978, he was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the commission for nominating federal circuit court judges for the fifth circuit and also founded the J.L. Turner Legal Association.

Currently a B-rated campus, Principal Shondula Whitfield’s hope is to be an A-rated school by 2025. 

“We serve scholars by providing purposeful, planned and targeted instruction, creating a culture where students thrive surrounded by compassion, high expectations, and a sense of urgency,” said Whitfield. “Our vision at Judge Louis A. Bedford Law Academy is to build lifelong learners, innovators and positive contributors who believe excellence is not only the goal, but the standard.”

The school is also anticipating upgrades as part of the district’s Bond 2020 program. To keep up with future community meetings, visit the Bond website.

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