Pamela K. Buchmeyer

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Dallas LGBT Bar Association May, 2011 Spotlight Member – Pamela K. Buchmeyer

I grew up at the Dallas Bar. That’s not too much of an exaggeration! My father was President of the DBA when they opened the doors to the restored Belo Mansion — previously an abandoned relic and a prized residence for downtown vagrants. Now we use new terms: the Arts District and the City’s Homeless, some things change, others not so much.

My sister and I were drafted to aid the Dallas Lawyers Wives in giving tours of the new Belo Mansion — each fireplace has a different colored tile, the foyer’s pendant lamp came from the film set of Masterpiece Theater’s “Upstairs Downstairs,” and a picture of the Belo hosting Bonnie & Clyde’s celebrity funeral hangs just off the front room.

Dad took no credit for developing the Belo. He credited a few sage lawyers who the rest of the Bar called darn fools, with the foresight of purchasing the dilapidated historical structure which featured a mortuary in the basement and a horizontal elevator for coffin use (let the lawyer jokes ensue).

However, it wasn’t until I found the GLBT Bar Sections that I had a passionate interest in being an active member of either the Dallas Bar or The State Bar. I enjoy very much the community of GLBT lawyers and colleagues. I am a Disaster Reservist for the US Small Business Administration where I administer funds to victims of natural disasters. It’s a mix of banking, governmental compliance and social work plus a smidgen of practicing law. I graduated from UT Austin undergrad (Phi Beta Kappa like my dad and my daughter) and then attended SMU Law School where I adored the clinic programs. In between hurricanes, floods, mudslides and other acts of destruction, I take furloughs to write humorous murder mysteries (not yet published, but I am hopeful).

I have a daughter, the UT graduate mentioned above, who now holds her first Real Job. She is a Physicist living in Austin (she out-stripped my knowledge of math near about third grade). I am also the adopted mother of a lovely Latina daughter, a pre-nursing student at Texas State San Marcos, who is also the “go to” babysitter for all the Lesbians in town. It was a particularly proud moment when this daughter accepted a posthumous La Luz Award given to Dad by the Dallas Hispanic Bar at a Belo banquet held one week after his death.

My father, U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer (appointed by Jimmy Carter), was a leading civil rights and human rights jurist who more than a few times stood the city of Dallas on its head. And he was a character, too! Almost every Tuesday night for years and years, Dad held court in the Belo Mansion Bar with his group of Tuesday Night Irregulars. I’ll never forget the sound of their deep melodious trial voices booming out lines of poetry: “There is no joy in Mudville, Mighty Casey has struck out!” Or reciting the opening lines of Jack London’s “Call Of The Wild:” “Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tide-water dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego. Because men, groping in the Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal….”

I miss my old man terribly. His death was long and miserable and hard. Without a doubt “Judge Jerry” had courage and foresight: he struck down the Texas state sodomy law, he desegregated public housing, he took the Dallas City Council to single member districts. Now his legacy is fading and about that he’d say “darn right.” Dad didn’t see his groundbreaking decisions as the product of a sage legal mind, he saw himself simply as the guy who held the keys to the front door. It was only common sense for him to reach over and open that lock — be it the Dallas Bar’s Belo Mansion or the corridors of power at Dallas City Hall.

I recently met Justice Anton Scalia at a 5th Circuit tribute to Dad. I took a pinch of Dad’s ashes out my pocket and used them to dust Scalia’s black robes like powdered sugar from a jelly doughnut. “Have fun haunting the Guardian of Liberty,” I happily told Dad. And I think he will. Once again, that’s not too much of an exaggeration.