Charlye Ola Farris, the first African-American woman to practice law in Texas and the first African-American attorney in Wichita County, was honored Tuesday at the opening of The Legends Project, an exhibit that documents the life of the local civil rights icon.
The Charlye Farris exhibition opened January 27 at MSU Texas inside of the Clark Student Center. An opening reception was held Tuesday and included remarks from Wichita County Judge Woody Gossom and former Wichita County District Attorney and friend, Barry Macha.
“What a remarkable woman Charlye Farris was. One of the things that I’m proudest about Charlye was the fact that when she graduated from high school here, Midwestern was not an option, she couldn’t have gotten in here. She went to Prairieview A&M. And after that when she decided to go to law school, Texas really wasn’t an option,” said Macha, explaining the racial discrimination present in the education system in the 1940s.
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Farris had graduated from Booker T. Washington High School as valedictorian, at age 15.
After getting her law degree from Howard University, she passed the Bar Exam and came home to Wichita Falls in 1953 to practice law and later serve as County Judge Pro-tem in the Wichita County courthouse which still had segregated bathrooms.
“It makes me so proud to see that her legacy is still going, 12 years after her death,” said her son, Dr.Troy Farris, a principal in the Wichita Falls ISD.
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“Just her drive, the things she had to face and her drive to get to where she was,” he added.
“The fact that that door was closed for her here, later in her career, she was appointed to the Board of Regents here at Midwestern State University. She was a proud regent, she worked hard and did a great job here,” Macha added.
The traveling exhibition will be at MSU Texas until February 11. It will then travel to the Martin Luther King Center on Smith Street from February 17 to March 5. Finally, the Museum of North Texas History will host the exhibition from March 10 to March 17.
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The exhibition is part of The Legends Project, a preservation project created by the Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture to highlight the contributions of African American leaders in our community.