Clara Loraine Meek
Clara Loraine Meek, retired partner with Vinson & Elkins LLP, passed away Saturday, December 23, 2017 at Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas.
Clara was born to Clara Ethel Gray Meek and Omri Rossar Meek, Sr. on June 30, 1949. She was the last of eleven children, and is survived by sister Doris Meek Rowl. Clara was preceded in death by sisters Zelma, Eureka, Bobbie Jean, Delores, Raythalia, Yedobaty, and Gwendolyn, and brothers Edward Johnson and Omri, Jr.
She was a longtime member of Loyal Missionary Baptist Church in Houston where she enjoyed worshipping with her sisters.
Clara’s journey began in Marshall, Texas as a bright, energetic young girl attending segregated schools, beginning at the age of four. As a young teenager, she moved to Houston, Texas to attend Jack Yates High School. Upon high school graduation, she attended Texas Southern University. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BBA in Management, and even served as an exchange student at the University of Wisconsin. Clara soon evolved into a mature, determined young woman who would eventually enter graduate school at the prestigious Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. There, she earned both a Master of Public Affairs and a PhD. She later earned a Doctorate of Jurisprudence at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, where she graduated with honors.
During her career, she worked as a research consultant at the Ford Foundation; served as a consultant to the New Jersey State Department of Higher Education; assistant dean and assistant professor at Howard University’s School of Business and Public Administration in Washington, D.C.; analyst for the United States Commission on Civil Rights; and program analyst and deputy office director for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Upon earning her JD, Clara joined the law firm of Vinson & Elkins LLP in August of 1985. She reached the pinnacle of her career in January of 1994 when she became the first African American partner?globally?at Vinson & Elkins LLP, leading what was then known as Business Litigation. There, she worked with, then managing partner and mentor Harry Reasoner, on complex antitrust cases until her retirement. In her capacity as partner, she also served as chair of the partnership’s Election Committee that oversaw the election of new partners. During that time, less than 2 percent of the partners in major law firms in the country were African American.
Reasoner commented, “Clara was an outstanding lawyer. She played great roles in our billion win against the Santa Fe Railroad, and for Shell in an eight month long arbitration in Washington, D.C., where we won several hundred million. Illness ender her career as a great lawyer.”
Clara was a strong-willed, dedicated, and determined gentle giant among giants. She maintained hope that ‘right’ would prevail in spite of the odds. She selflessly gave of herself in the community. She willingly helped numerous individuals and served countless organizations in capacities as both board member as well as ardent supporter. Organizations include TransAfrica, the Houston Area Urban League, the NAACP (life member), the National Council of Negro Women (life member), People on the Move for Christ Ministries (a nonprofit that operates a food pantry in Houston’s Third Ward), the African American Studies Program at the University of Houston, and Houston Area Women’s Center Guild. She has served on the boards of the local United Negro College Fund, DePelchin Children’s Center, Jazz Education, Inc., The Bakari Fund, and the W. J. Durham Legal Society, as well as many other entities.
She also treasured her longtime friendship with mentor the Honorable retired United States Magistrate Judge Calvin Botley. He recounted, “Clara was a preeminent lawyer, very meticulous in everything she did. She had a high sense of professionalism and was always concerned about her fellow man. She was the benefactor of a wonderful education and she sought relentlessly for those less fortunate than she. Even in her latest illness, she never relented seeking justice for all human beings.”
Clara was an extraordinarily compassionate and generous individual, often assuming full responsibility for the success of a plethora of causes and various forms of positive social activism and humanitarianism. Outside of organized community service, Clara was known for her strong advocacy for the underserved and disenfranchised, not only in Houston, but also across the United States and even around the world. This was evidenced by her yearlong relocation to Africa to advance her efforts to that end. No stranger to local, state, and national politics, Clara was frequently and vehemently engaged in projects and campaigns, even founding Women for Turner in 1991, in her work to elect Houston’s current mayor, her friend, to the position he holds today. This group remains an active component of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s campaign.
Clara took most pride in helping to take care of her family, especially as her siblings grew older. She was a devoted sister, aunt, cousin, and friend. Her quiet generosity spoke volumes and is unmatched in most circles.
It is with deep appreciation that her nephew and caretaker, Donald Ray Landor, is acknowledged for his dedication and devotion during her illness.
Clara departed this earth as humbly as she was born. She left it much better than she found it, and moreover, she departed the way she lived?surrounded by friends and family who loved her dearly and will cherish her always.
While Clara supported numerous organizations and charities, she was most passionate about the African American Studies Program at the University of Houston. In her honor, an endowed scholarship is being established in her name within that program. Checks can be made payable to:
African American Studies
University of Houston
Dr. James L. Conyers, Jr.,
Agnes Arnold Hall 628
Houston, TX 77204-3047
Online donations may be made via the following URL: http://www.uh.edu/class/aas/supportus/
Per Clara’s wishes, her family will return her remains to her birthplace, Marshall, Texas.
Clara Loraine Meek