Camille Elizabeth Standford Openshaw - The Harris County Law Library's Woman of Distinction

In 1987, Congress passed a law designating March as Women’s History Month. In his proclamation, President Reagan called upon “all Americans to mark this month with appropriate observances to honor the achievements of American women.” In this exhibit, the Harris County Law Library celebrates the achievements of a pioneering Houston attorney, Camille Elizabeth Stanford Openshaw, who overcame bias in the male-dominated legal field of the early 20th century to obtain her law degree and make significant contributions in her legal career.


Second Woman to Graduate from South Texas School of Law

South Texas School of Law - Camille Elizabeth Stanford Openshaw's Graduation Photo

Thank you to the South Texas College of Law Fred Parks Law Library for providing this photo.

Camille Openshaw enrolled at South Texas School of Law (today, South Texas College of Law) in 1925. She graduated in 1930 and her photo appeared in the school’s yearbook.


First Woman Elected to Lawyers Library Association Board of Directors

Stock certification of the Lawyers Library Association dated 1917. The original is on display in the lobby of the Harris County Law Library.

In 1915, the Lawyers Library Association established the Harris County Law Library. Until 1934, all officers, directors, and employees of the association were men. Camille Openshaw became the first women to serve as a director after being elected to a 2-year term on March 12, 1934.


Openshaw Represents Bonnie & Clyde Accomplice Raymond Hamilton

The Mexia Weekly Herald (Mexia, Tex.), Vol. 37, No. 20, Ed. 1 Friday, May 10, 1935, Newspaper, May 10, 1935; (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth299401/)

The Mexia Weekly Herald (Mexia, Tex.), Vol. 37, No. 20, Ed. 1 Friday, May 10, 1935, Newspaper, May 10, 1935; (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth299401/)

Openshaw stepped into the limelight when she took the case of Raymond Hamilton, a former lieutenant of the infamous Clyde Barrow. Hamilton was serving a 362-year sentence when Bonnie and Clyde staged a raid to free him, killing a guard in the process. Upon recapture, Hamilton was sentenced to death. Openshaw took the dapper defendant’s difficult last-minute plea to Austin in May 1935, but a 1933 statute stacked the odds against the escapee and his execution continued as planned on May 10, 1935. The story is chronicled here in the May 8, 1935 issue of The Mexia Weekly Herald.


Founding Partner of Law Firm McIntosh & Openshaw

"Postcard of the Sterling Building, Houston." (1930) Rice University: http://hdl.handle.net/1911/80802.

In 1938, Camille Openshaw partnered with Robert McIntosh to form a small law firm. The pair officed in the Sterling Building in downtown Houston. With so few women working as attorneys at the time, Openshaw’s achievement of becoming a named partner is certainly noteworthy. The partnership continued for the next 8 years according to entries in the Harris County Law Library's historic Martindale-Hubbel Lawyer Directory Collection.

The Sterling Building {pictured here} stood in downtown Houston from 1931 until 2014. At the time McIntosh & Openshaw officed there in the 1930s, the building housed several law offices, corporate headquarters, professional associations, and government offices. For more details, visit the architectural history page at arch-ive.org.


Acknowledgments

The Harris County Law Library would like to thank the following organizations for their assistance in providing photos, facts, and artifacts for the "Camille Elizabeth Stanford Openshaw - Harris County Law Library's Woman of Distinction" exhibit: