Judge Appointed to Hear Election Contest

Brenda Denson Prince put on her evening best and walked the red carpet with Jamie Foxx Sunday evening, but she did it at an Oscar watching party in Foxx’s hometown of Terrell, Texas. And as the world turned its attention to Foxx’s acceptance speech, Denson-Prince, for a time at least, was able to forget the battle she wages to give an acceptance speech of her own.

“You walked up on that red carpet and thought you were in Hollywood,” recalls Denson-Prince by telephone. “It was very nice.” And when Foxx won the Oscar for best actor, “there was a standing ovation. Everyone was happy and all. And everyone was as teary-eyed as he was.”

For the first time since election night 2004, Denson-Prince says she felt that Terrell, “was combined as a community should be. At one. United. I hadn’t felt that way in a while.”

For Prince the past four months have been marked by feelings of dreams not quite touched, as she continues to wage a fight to become the first woman County Commissioner to represent Terrell’s corner of Kaufman County.

Readers familiar with the story will know that on election night 2004, Denson-Prince left the central counting station with reports showing her in a comfortable lead, but by the time she got home the numbers had suddenly shifted to a tie. In a subsequent recount, she was handed a three-vote loss. The abrupt change in election-night fortunes has been explained by one technician as the result of a read-out error in the earlier reports, but Prince wants to see a full review of the evidence in court. So she filed suit in December.

The original judge assigned to the case asked to be excused shortly after the story was first reported by the Texas Civil Rights Review. On Sunday, Terrell Tribune’s Will Irwin reported that retired judge and Dallas attorney Os Chrisman has been appointed to hear the election contest.

Chrisman may be a retired judge, but he has not been retiring in the affairs of his state. As an alumni leader at Baylor University, he declared at a public forum in July, 2003 that alumni “aim to have a voice in this university from this day forward.” And he joined in public efforts to remove University President Robert Sloan, who this summer will be moving to the position of Chancellor.

A simple search at the Texas Ethics Commission web site yields only one record of a campaign contribution made by Oswin Chrisman. In late October, records show that he gave $100.00 to Beth Maultsby, Republican candidate for Dallas Family District Court. The donation was small but symbolically significant, since Maultsby’s Democrat opponent Dennise Garcia went on to become ‘Dallas County’s first elected Latina judge.’

An attendee at the swearing in of Judge Garcia reported that the event was laden with Civil Rights history:

“There in front of me was the first Hispanic ever elected as a District Judge in Dallas County,” wrote John Danish in his report to the Irving Democratic Club. Garcia, was, “being sworn in by retired federal Judge Jerry Buckmerer who presided over the desegregation case filed against the Dallas I.S.D.. Her parents, sitting in the front row, had both been spanked as children for speaking Spanish on the playground. Ms. Lupe Valdez, the newly elected sheriff of Dallas County (who also happens to be Hispanic), watched over the ceremony.”

That is the kind of history Denson-Prince hopes to make some day. She is sounding much stronger than the hoarse whisper we first heard in late December, and when asked how she’s dealing with all of this after so many months, she answers simply, “God is Love.” It is a refrain that has sustained Southern struggle for centuries.

GREG MOSES is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. His chapter on civil rights under Clinton and Bush appears in Dime’s Worth of Difference, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. He can be reached at: gmosesx@prodigy.net


(1) Contributions to the Brenda Denson-Prince Campaign Fund may be sent to P.O. Box 2434, Terrell, Texas 75160.

(2) Of 650,850 votes cast in the Maultsby-Garcia race, 328,969 (50.54%) went to Garcia; 321,881 (49.45%) went to Maultsby, according to the Texas Secretary of State election results posted online.


Greg Moses writes about peace and Texas, but not always at the same time. He is author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. As editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review he has written about racism faced by Black agriculturalists in Texas. Moses is a member of the Texas Civil Rights Collaborative. He can be reached at gmosesx@gmail.com