Seals, Woodrow Bradley

Biographical notes:

Judge Woodrow Bradley Seals was born on December 24, 1917 in Bogalusa, Louisiana. He married Daisy Newman in 1942 and had one son, Bradley. He served as a pilot in Europe during World War II and retired as Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force Reserve. Judge Seals received his Juris Doctorate Degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1949; that year he moved to Houston and began practicing law. During the 1950's he was Harris County Democratic Chairman, and served as John F. Kennedy's campaign manager in 1960. He was active in the State Bar of Texas, where he was chairman of the Committee on Criminal Law and Procedure, a member of the Grievance Committee, Prosecuting Committee and Committee on Professional Ethics. As United States Attorney he hired the first African-American secretary in a U.S. Attorney's Office in Texas and the first African-American Assistant U.S. Attorney and was known for his courageous rulings, in particular on student's rights and desegregation and the education of alien children.

In 1961 Judge Seals was nominated by Senator Ralph Yarborough and appointed by President Kennedy as United States Attorney for the Southern District of Texas, and in 1966 was appointed to the federal bench as United States District Judge by President Johnson. In 1982, at age 65, he took senior status but remained on the bench with a reduced caseload. He died in Houston on October 27, 1990.

Judge Seals was very active in the local Methodist Church, serving as Chairman of the Official Board, Charge Lay Leader, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, as well as serving on numerous boards and conferences, and acted as lay delegate to the Texas Annual Conference. He taught an adult church school class for more than 30 years.

Judge Seals founded the Society of St. Stephen in the mid-1960's, an organization to help the needy which is now established across the country. He also founded a Peace Advocate program in the United Methodist Church in 1984, and the Community Service Option Program for offenders on probation, and was founder and president of the Court Volunteer Services of Harris County. He was President of Big Brothers & Sisters of Houston, Chairman of the local Boy Scouts Council Division of Scouting for the Handicapped, and served on the boards of civic and charitable organizations, including the United Way, the Community Council, Council of Human Relations, United Nations Association, The Shoulder, Planned Parenthood, Mental Health Association, South Central YMCA, Volunteers in Technical Assistance, Houston Metropolitan Ministries, the Houston Public Library, the Alley Theatre, and the Candidate Advisory Service of the Air Force Academy.

At his death, his civic affiliations included being a Community Associate of Hanszen College at Rice University, Chairman of the Committee to Celebrate the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution for the Southern District of Texas, the Houston Philosophical Society, and the Philosophical Society of Texas.

Judge Seals' awards and honors include the Papal Medal "Benerementi", presented by Pope John Paul II in 1979; an Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree from Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, in 1984; the Medal of Honor from the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1985; the Jefferson Award for community service in 1986; and the World Methodist Council Peace Award, presented in 1987.

From the guide to the Judge Woodrow Seals Papers MSS 0414., 1941-1990, 1961-1990, (Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library)


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