Former Houston Judge Honored By Baylor Law School

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    Judge Wyatt H. Heard, left, receives the 2005 Baylor Lawyer of the Year award from Baylor President Robert B. Sloan, Jr., center, and David H. Hill, president of the Baylor Law Alumni Association.
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    Former Houston residents, Judge Wyatt Heard and his wife, Heidi, now live in Albuquerque, N.M.
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    Baylor President Robert B. Sloan, Jr. addressed the topic "Reflections on Baylor Law School and Baylor Lawyers" during his keynote speech at the Law Day banquet.
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    Students Bethany Espinoza, left, and Abby Stallings, victors in the final round of the Strasburger & Price 2005 Spring Moot Court Competition, held during the Law Day program.
April 13, 2005

by Alan Hunt

Judge Wyatt H. Heard of Albuquerque, N.M., the man who founded Houston's highly acclaimed Communities in Schools (CIS) program, was honored as the 2005 Baylor Lawyer of the Year at the annual Law Day banquet of Baylor University School of Law. Residents of Albuquerque since August 1994, Judge Heard and his wife, Heidi, have three sons and two daughters.

A former Judge of the 190th State District Court of Texas in Harris County, Heard received the Lawyer of the Year plaque from Baylor President Robert B. Sloan, Jr., and David Hill, president of the Baylor Law Alumni Association, during a program attended by nearly 700 law alumni, students, friends and supporters of the law school. The Lawyer of the Year award is given annually to an outstanding alumnus who has brought honor and distinction to Baylor Law School and the legal profession.

Baylor Law Dean Brad Toben described Heard as "a gentleman with a heart for people that is boundless. Seldom do we enjoy the company and friendship of a person with as wide ranging interests and social concerns as the Judge. He is a blessing to all." Other speakers, including Sloan, Heard's son, Denman Heard, and, in a videotaped message, former Baylor football coach Grant Teaff (now executive director of the American Football Coaches Association), paid tribute to Judge Heard's service to the legal profession and to his many years of community service.

Following graduation from Baylor Law School in 1952, Heard began his career as a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. After leaving the FBI, he joined the law firm of Baker Botts, L.L.P. in Houston, where he practiced civil trial law until 1966. He subsequently became a partner in the firm of Urban, Coolidge, Pennington & Heard. In 1969, he was appointed by Governor Preston Smith to the newly created 190th State District Court of Texas in Harris County and he occupied the bench until 1990, running unopposed in six elections. Since retiring from the bench, Judge Heard has been of Counsel with three law firms in Houston and New Mexico.

An accomplished mediator and arbitrator, Judge Heard has served on the faculty of Attorney-Mediators of Texas since 1994, and he holds a professorship in the Honors Program at the University of New Mexico.

Toben said Judge Heard was responsible for the "tremendous impact" on the lives of countless at-risk students in Houston through the Communities in Schools program, which he founded in that city in 1979. "This has enabled thousands of young people to break the cycle of generational poverty and ignorance that has held their families captive. CIS students - many of them the first in their families to graduate from high school - have gone on to graduate from college and become lawyers, doctors, accountants, and corporate executives."

Judge Heard also began "Project Charlie," an anti-drug, anti-alcohol program in the Houston Independent School District. Beginning in 10 elementary schools, the program grew to 30 schools in three years, and in 1991, Houston ISD took over the administration of the program. More than 8,000 teachers in 186 HISD schools have been trained in "Project Charlie" and today it is the largest anti-drug, anti-alcohol program in an urban school district in the United States.

The Law Day banquet climaxed a full slate of activities at the Law School and included a presentation by President Sloan of the annual John William and Florence Dean Minton Endowed Law School Lecture Series. He spoke on "Reflections on Baylor Law School and Baylor Lawyers."

Earlier, the final round of the Strasburger & Price 2005 Spring Moot Court Competition was watched by a large audience in the Jim Kronzer Appellate Advocacy Classroom & Courtroom. Winners of the contest were Abby Stallings and Bethany Espinoza, both fourth-quarter law students. The runners-up were Amanda Brown and Josh Hedrick. These two teams were the "survivors" from an original field of 64 teams when the contest started on March 22.

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