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Breaking ground at Judge Louis Bedford, Sr. Law Academy

Groundbreaking at Bedford

On Saturday, November 11, 2023, Dallas ISD broke ground on Judge Louis Bedford, Sr. Law Academy which will serve as a legacy to Judge Bedford, the first Black judge in Dallas County and a champion for equal rights and access for all. 

Since the school opened as William Hawley Atwell Jr. High School in 1964, it has been a source of pride and an anchor in this community.  As it restarts its life as Judge Louis Bedford, Jr. Law Academy what a better time to honor the legacy of a stellar juris, to recognize the commitment to educational excellence demonstrated daily by our educators, scholars, and parents; and to acknowledge this amazing community for its active participation in the design of this new campus. Judge Bedford worked with the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall on legislature that removed barriers to public education.

As we look back on his life, we are reminded of the traits that made the judge the leader and game changer we honor.

First, determination: The young Louis Bedford, like all Black students in Texas at that time, was barred from attending law school in the state. But, determined not to let that stop him, he earned his law degree anyway, in the state of New York.

Second, loyalty and dedication: After graduating, he returned to Dallas, as his son has told us, “Because of his loyalty and dedication to his family, and to try and make a difference in the legal system of Texas.”

Third, commitment: Judge Bedford was committed to the cause of equal rights. He defended young students fighting for desegregation and worked alongside Thurgood Marshall on the first desegregation case to take place in Dallas.

And mentorship: beyond his work as a lawyer, judge, judicial commissioner, and community activist, he was a mentor to young African-American attorneys and co-founder of the J.L. Turner Legal Association.

In 2021, when we announced we were kicking off the design process for 16 new campuses across the District, people said we were being overly ambitious.  And we were. But we were committed to building BIG – creating Bold, Innovative, and Generational schools built to meet the needs of current and future 21st-century learners.

From the beginning of the design and construction process, Dallas ISD Construction Services and Bond Office reached out to the learning communities and engaged with you through design charettes and community meetings. In a little more than a year the new $68.5M, 157,000 SF facility will become home to 850 students in grades 6-8. Centered around a fully functioning courtroom, the replacement school contains an elevated library/media center, a 900-seat competition gym/storm shelter, and a 450-seat auditorium. Covered outdoor spaces combined with tiered classroom massing allow for maximized views and daylighting.

The new Judge Louis Bedford, Jr. Law Academy will excite and engage students at every turn as they learn and explore the complexities of the legal system. Imagine being an 11, 12, or 13-year-old attending school in a place that envelopes you in the rich history of the school’s namesake while inspiring you to leave the world better than you found it. This project will truly transform the former Atwell into a first-class learning environment designed to prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century and beyond.

Dallas ISD is beyond grateful to voters for supporting back-to-back bond packages to fund extensive investments in our schools.

Jacqueline Bell