Celebrating Black History Month 2023

During Black History Month, we recognize the achievements of SMU Law alumni who have made large impacts on our school and in society. Read below to learn about some of our exceptional alumni that are changing the world. 



Judge Earldean V.S. Robbins '61

Judge Earldean V.S. Robbins ’61 was the first Black student to graduate from SMU Law and went on to be an administrative law judge in San Francisco. In 2002, she received the Distinguished Alumni Award for Public Service from the law school.

Judge Joan Tarpley Winn '68

Judge Joan Tarpley Winn ’68 entered SMU Dedman School of Law after serving in the Peace Corps. She was the first Black woman to practice law in Dallas County and soon after became the first Black woman appointed as a Dallas County district judge.

District Attorney John Creuzot ’82

District Attorney John Creuzot ’82 served 21 years as a felony district court judge and is currently the Dallas County District Attorney. In 2000, he won the Distinguished Alumni Award for Public Interest from the law school. He has received numerous other awards for leadership and community service.

John K. Pierre '85

John K. Pierre ’85 serves as chancellor of Southern University Law Center. After graduating from law school, Pierre served his country as a Judge Advocates General Corps Officer, or JAG, for the United States Army. In 1990, his next assignment led him to the classroom as he began serving as a faculty member at the Southern University Law Center, where he taught courses such as tax law, security devices, local government law and more. In 2006, he transitioned to a leadership role within the institution becoming the vice chancellor of institutional accountability and the evening division. In 2018, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the law school. He has served as the Law Center’s chancellor since 2016.

Vicki Blanton '91

Vicki Blanton '91 serves as Assistant Vice President and Senior Legal Counsel, Tax & Benefits at AT&T. She has won multiple corporate counsel awards including Corporate Counsel of the Year from the State Bar of Texas. She is a past president of the J. L. Turner Legal Association, winning accolades from the State Bar of Texas and the National Bar Association. Blanton currently serves on the SMU Dedman School of Law Executive Board as well as the Board of Directors for the Dallas chapter of the American Red Cross.

Claire Babineax-Fontenot ’92

Claire Babineax-Fontenot ’92 is the CEO of Feeding America. She oversees the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization and second-largest U.S. charity, according to Forbes. Prior to joining Feeding America, Claire spent 13 years on Walmart's leadership team, with her most recent role being executive vice president and global treasurer. She currently serves on the SMU Law Executive Board.

Clement Osimetha ‘95

Clement Osimetha ‘95 is a member at Grable Martin where he counsels business leaders, employees and other stakeholders on legal matters affecting the day-to-day operation of their respective organizations. Prior to Grable Martin, he worked as Vice President and Associate General Counsel for Mary Kay. He also serves as general counsel for Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Osimetha currently serves on the SMU Dedman School of Law Executive Board.

Toni Y. Hickey '98

Toni Y. Hickey ’98 was Chief IP Counsel & Deputy General Counsel for 6 years at Cummins, Inc. before starting her new position as General Counsel for the company last fall. She serves on the Board of Directors for both the Indianapolis Urban League and Girl Scouts of Central Indiana.

A. Shonn Evans Brown ’98

A. Shonn Evans Brown ’98 has serves as chief global litigation counsel for Kimberly-Clark Corp., advising the Fortune 500 company on matter of public policy. She is a 2016 recipient of the SMU Law Distinguished Alumni Award and a 2022 recipient of the SMU Distinguished Alumni Award. As a civic leader, she advances nonprofit impact with an emphasis on gender and racial equality. She has served on numerous boards and is immediate past board chair of the Texas Women’s Foundation and co-founder of its The Village Giving Circle. Her current roles include board chair-elect of The Hockaday School and a trustee of the Dallas Museum of Art.

Judge Tonya Parker '98

Judge Tonya Parker ’98 was elected in 2010 and presides over the 116th Civil District Court in Dallas County. She is recognized at the local, state and national levels for her contributions to the legal community. In addition to numerous other awards, the Dallas Bar Associationawarded Judge Parker the Martin Luther King, Jr. Justice Award in recognition of the barriers she has broken in the legal community and her commitment to the principal of equal justice under the law.

Judge Parker serves on the SMU Dedman School of Law Executive Board and is a past recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award for Judicial Service.

Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire L.L.M. ’03

Lady Justice Catherine Bamugemereire ’03 is a sitting justice of the Court of Appeal which doubles as the Constitutional Court of Uganda. She is currently the Chairperson of a Commission of Inquiry into the Land Sector. Lady Justice Bamugemereire is an expert on corruption and has extensively written and presented on corruption at Oxford Brookes, Manchester, Leicester and the World Bank. In 2017, Lady Justice Bamugemereire received the Distinguished Global Alumni Award from the law school.

Christa Brown-Sanford '04

Christa Brown-Sanford ‘04 is co-chair of the Intellectual Property Department at Baker Botts. She also serves on the firm’s Executive Committee and Diversity and Inclusion Committee. She is an adjunct professor at SMU Dedman School of Law where she teaches patent licensing and enforcement, in addition to patent prosecution courses. In 2019, she received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the law school.

Sanford serves on the SMU Law Executive Board and on the SMU Board of Trustees. She recently completed serving as the President for the Junior League of Dallas, during the League's Centennial year.

Judge Shelton Gibbs '05

Judge Shelton Gibbs ’05 currently serves as Judge of the 422nd District Court of Texas and is Kaufman County’s first Black district judge. As a judge, and previously as assistant district attorney and chief felony prosecutor for the 86th District Court, he has dedicated his career to serving the people of Kaufman County.

Yulise Reaves Waters ’08

Yulise Reaves Waters ’08 is the Chief Innovations Officer of Lone Star Justice Alliance, a nonprofit legal organization that works to improve the lives of youth and emerging adults in the justice system. Previously, Waters was an Assistant City Attorney and Lead Community Courts Prosecutor for the City of Dallas where she co-founded the Second Chance Community Improvement Program (SCCIP) in 2014 which became the first-ever felony community court in Dallas County and the first-ever young adult specialty court in the State of Texas. She is a graduate of the 2019-2020 inaugural Dallas Truth, Racial Healing, & Transformation Racial Equity Now Cohort. Waters is the recipient of numerous honors including the Black Alumni of SMU’s History Maker Award and the SMU Law Distinguished Alumni Award.

Cedric A Powell '09

Cedric A. Powell ’09 was the first Black recipient of The Sumners Foundation Scholarship at SMU. He was recently promoted to partner in Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP’s Washington, D.C. office. He was recognized as a Rising Star by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association in 2021. In addition to earning his J.D. at Southern Methodist University, he received his B.B.A. from Howard University.

Brittany K. Barnett '11

Brittany K. Barnett ’11 is an award-winning attorney and entrepreneur focused on transforming the criminal justice system. Her pro bono work has freed dozens of people serving death sentences for federal drug offenses, including multiple clients who received executive clemency from two Presidents. Barnett is the founder of several nonprofits and social enterprises, including the Buried Alive Project, Girls Embracing Mothers, XVI Capital Partners, and Manifest Freedom. Her best-selling memoir, A Knock at Midnight, was named the #1 Book of 2020 by Amazon Books Editors. She currently serves on SMU Law’s Emerging Leader Board.

Dr. Juanita DeLoach '12

Dr. Juanita DeLoach '12 holds her J.D. from SMU Law as well as a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. DeLoach is a partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP where she protects IP rights through trademark and patent law.

She serves on the Board of Directors for Girls Embracing Mothers, Inc. and High-Tech High Heels North Texas, an organization focused on closing the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math.

Aaron Diggins ’19

Aaron Diggins ’19 is a real estate attorney at Greenberg Traurig. Before attending law school, Diggins served as a staff sergeant in the United States Air Force as well as the United States Marine Corps. Following his military service, he served as a police officer and detective for the Dallas Police Department. Diggins volunteers at The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program where he provides legal services to unrepresented veterans or their family members who have filed appeals at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.