A Guide to the Hattie Elam Briscoe Papers, 1937-1997
In 1956, Hattie Elam Briscoe became the first Black woman to graduate from St. Mary’s University School of Law, and was the only Black woman attorney in Bexar County for the next 27 years. Hattie was born in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1916. Hattie was only nine when her family moved to Marshall, Texas after her mother died. After graduating with honors from Central High School (now H.B. Pemberton High) in Marshall, Hattie received a one-year scholarship to attend Wiley College. She earned a B.A. from Wiley College in 1937 before teaching 4th grade in Wichita Falls from 1937-1941.
On October 12, 1940, Hattie married William M. Briscoe of San Antonio. The couple moved to San Antonio the following year and Hattie became a licensed beauty operator, working beside her husband at Briscoe’s Beauty Salon until 1945. The couple was married 47 years.
In 1944, Hattie became a licensed cosmetology instructor and taught night classes at Hicks Beauty School. Later she was an Instructor of Cosmetology at Wheatley High School. While teaching at Hicks, Hattie pursued her Master’s degree at Prairie View A M College, earning her M.S. degree in 1951. In 1952, she entered St. Mary’s Law School where she attended night classes. Hattie graduated from St. Mary’s first in her class in 1956 at the age of 40. As of 1998, Hattie Briscoe was still practicing law in the Preachers Professional Building at 1416 E. Commerce.
Attorney Briscoe has received numerous honors, awards and accolades throughout the region including the Who’s Who in Texas Today award, and Who’s Who in American Law and Community Leaders and Noteworthy Americans. Briscoe is an honored member of the National Association of Defense Lawyers in Criminal Cases, San Antonio Bar Association, San Antonio Black Lawyers Association, Texas Bar Association, Texas Criminal Bar Association, American Bar Association, and the National Association of Black Women Attorneys. She is an active life member of the San Antonio Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, who awarded her a plaque for Superior Achievement in the Field of Law in 1975. Hattie is also involved as a member of several other organizations including the YWCA, a life member of the NAACP, and the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce.
Source: Biography on Hattie Elam Briscoe in Counting My Blessing Hall of Famer of the Century program, undated, accession file.
Diplomas, certificates of award and memberships, news articles, photographs and two trial case transcripts document the education, career and activities of Hattie Elam Briscoe. The papers are arranged alphabetically by format. The collection primarily consists of documents that Briscoe received over the course of her education and professional career. However, the news articles often include quotes from interviews with Briscoe, offering insight into her personality and the obstacles that she overcame in her life, including accounts of discrimination. Also included in the collection are photographs of William Briscoe (Hattie’s husband) in 1952, Briscoe’s 1956 graduating law class at St. Mary’s University, and Briscoe with Judge Manuel Lopez at the Menger Hotel in 1958. Later photographs capture celebratory events at which Briscoe was honored, including a 1987 exhibit at the Carver Cultural Center titled “They Showed the Way”. Certificates of award and membership reflect Briscoe’s involvement with community and professional organizations such as the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, NAACP, American Bar Association, and National Bar Association. Of note is a 1959 trial transcript of a case in which Briscoe was asked to be special prosecutor by the widow of a black man who was shot and killed by a police officer. Briscoe discussed the case in a 1997 oral history interview, which is located at University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections. A second trial transcript dated 1965 concerns a case in which Briscoe defended a man accused of burglary.
Selected material in this collection has been digitized and is available in our digital collections.
This collection is housed at UTSA's Main Campus and must be accessed via the John Peace Library Special Collections reading room. To request access, please use the Collections Request Form.
Permission to publish material from the Hattie Elam Briscoe Papers must be obtained from the Archives and Special Collections, University of Texas at San Antonio Library. However, UTSA does not hold copyright on the professional photographs and permission must be sought from the photographer.
[Identification of item], Hattie Elam Briscoe Papers, 1937-1997, MS 67, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.
Materials in this collection were donated by Hattie Elam Briscoe in January 1998 (Acc. 1998-010).
Processed by Toni Jeske, January 2002
University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections also holds the records of two organizations of which Briscoe is a member: the San Antonio Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the San Antonio Women’s Celebration and Hall of Fame . A small amount of information about Hattie Elam Briscoe can be found in issues of Snap located in the San Antonio Black History Collection.
Detailed Description of the Collection