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Judge Woodrow Seals Papers

Identifier: MSS 0414-0414

Scope and Contents Note

The collection consists mainly of legal documents and papers, legal reference materials, correspondence and clippings on his work on Democratic Party committees, his efforts to further world peace and relating to the many charitable organizations he was associated with, the organizations he founded, and his church work. Some personal papers and artifacts are included.


  • 1941-1990
  • Majority of material found within 1961-1990

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research. Restricted material has been removed and filed separately. Access to it is by authorization of the HMRC Manager. The following items are restricted: Box 1 Folder 7, Box 31 Folder 15, Box 31 Folder 17, and Box 43 Folder 2.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish or reproduce materials from the Judge Woodrow Seals Papers must be obtained from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center or the appropriate copyright holder.

Biographical Note

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.


115.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The arrangement follows the order used by Judge Seals. The papers relating to the Judge's legal work are arranged chronologically within each section, as are the sections on speeches, personal matters, events in Judge Seals' life including vacations, awards, overseas trips, festivities, meetings, and conferences. The sections on correspondence are organized alphabetically by name, organizations and charities that Judge Seals was involved with. The sections on his church-related work are arranged chronologically within each church division, as is the large section on the founding, running, and organization of the local and national Societies of St. Stephen. The collection is arranged into 23 Series based on subject or format.

1. United States Attorney Files 2. Department of Justice 3. Political Files 4. Working (Case) Files 5. Students Rights / Desegregation Cases 6. Opinions and Orders 7. Orders Signed by Judge Seals 8. Jury Charges, Court Books, Bench Books 9. Legal Information 10. Publicity Files (Information about Judge Seals) 11. Clippings on Topics of Interest to Judge Seals 12. "People" Files 13. Reading Files 14. Personal Papers, Correspondence, Family 15. Ideas, Places, Events, Things 16. Meetings and Conferences 17. Speech Files 18. Bar and Law Associations Files 19. Organizations 20. Church-related Files 21. Appointment Diaries 22. Artifacts and Oversized Materials 23. Photographs

Acquisition Information

Donated by Bradley Seals and Daisy Seals, February, 1991.. Additional material donated by Emily Hardt and Alice Dorsey in June 2000.

Processing Information

Processed by Kay Burford and Mary D'Albertson, completed in September 1994.
Judge Woodrow Seals Papers
Additions To Incorporate
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houston Metropolitan Research Center Repository


The African American Library at the Gregory School
1300 Victor Street
Houston, Texas 77019
Houston Metropolitan Research Center
Houston Public Library
550 McKinney St.
Houston, Texas 77002