Houston Grand Opera will present the story of the city’s first known pro bono case — the fight of a woman named Emeline — in a three-hour event Tuesday and Wednesday designed to raise money for access to justice efforts.
Emeline was a woman of color born to a freed slave, but when she was enslaved herself, Houston lawyer Peter Gray took up her case in 1847 and argued that Emeline and her sons could not be held as slaves because of her birth to a free woman. A Houston jury of six white men agreed.
“What Wings They Were: The Case of Emeline” is a commissioned opera that will be presented as part of a fundraiser to support pro bono legal services of the Houston Bar Association’s Houston Volunteer Lawyers program.
The 45-minute opera will be featured from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at the historic 1910 Courthouse, 301 Fannin St. Before the opera there will be an explanation of Gray’s representation of Emeline. After the event there will be an opportunity to talk to judges and local officials who discovered her story in Harris County files.
Baker Botts LLP commissioned the opera to celebrate its 175th year and to support equal access to justice for low-income Houstonians. After representing Emeline, Peter Gray went on to become a judge, the first president of the HBA, and a founder of what is now Baker Botts.
“Peter Gray has inspired many generations of Baker Botts lawyers, who have followed Gray’s lead and been active in the Houston community since the days of the Republic of Texas,” Bill Kroger, a Baker Botts partner, said in a news release on the event.
To purchase tickets, visit www.emeline.eventbrite.com
Tickets are $100, including 1 hour of CLE ethics credit for attorneys.