Selden B. Hale III


Selden B. Hale III
Selden B. Hale III

Selden B. Hale III, son of a pioneer Northern Panhandle family, passed away on September 7, 2022, at the age of 84.  Hale’s great-grandfather Melville Bond Wright settled permanently in the Texas Panhandle in the spring of 1877 after temporarily living there in 1872.  His grandfather Selden B. Hale, from Indiana, settled in the original county seat town of Hansford shortly after 1900 and served as the first County Judge of Hansford County. Hale’s father, Selden B. Hale, Jr., a pharmacist, and he were both raised along the banks of the Palo Duro Creek in Hansford County.  His mother, Pauline Owen Hale, came from a pioneer “Sooner” ranching family on the Washita River near Sayre, Oklahoma.

Born on December 7th, in Shattuck, OK in 1937, he attended schools in Spearman and Gruver, TX.  He joined the United States Marine Corps in 1960 and served as an enlisted man in the Amarillo Reserve Unit on active and reserve duty.  Hale worked for several years as a writer for the Amarillo Daily News until he graduated from West Texas State University in 1965.  He entered St. Mary’s Law School in San Antonio, where he graduated with his Juris Doctorate in l967.

After a stint as counsel for Pioneer Natural Gas Company, he began his lifelong work as a lawyer for the ‘citizen accused.’ He tried cases in all the Panhandle Courthouses.  He served as a Texas ACLU cooperating lawyer in the Panhandle, the most conservative part of Texas, dealing with the issues of free speech, death penalty, freedom of association and single member district political cases.  Although a lifelong defense lawyer, he represented District Attorney, Tom Curtis and Judge Morris Overstreet, during “Potter Gate”, and represented dozens of Panhandle law officers during his practice, which lasted 50 years.

On one occasion, in the late Judge Sam Kiser’s Potter County court room, a large man accused of robbery, attacked and attempted to steal the bailiff’s gun, and Hale engaged in a fist fight over the weapon, and with the help of others, secured the attacking defendant.  An old-fashioned, colorful lawyer with a booming bass voice, he often held juries spellbound.

Hale, a member of the State Bar of Texas, was admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1985, over the dissent of two conservative Supreme Court Justices because of his introduction of police records in the murder case of an accused Black citizen.  The Supreme Court later ruled that police had to share their records with defense attorneys and with the media.

At the beginning of Texas Governor Ann Richard’s administration, she appointed Hale Chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, the first defense lawyer to hold this post.  He and others were instrumental in the construction of state prison units including in Amarillo, Dalhart, Plainview, Pampa and Tulia, and the establishment of the first significant drug and alcohol treatment programs for prisoners.  Hale was also instrumental in the development of the Texas Sentencing Standards Commission.  His work on the Sentencing Commission, and with drug and alcohol programs, was designed to stop the huge influx of prisoners into Texas prisons.  Those efforts were later stymied by Governor George W. Bush’s administration.  Hale resigned his TDCJ chairmanship after becoming angry over a TDCJ board member’s financial association with a prison construction project, and with the advent and use of private, for-profit prisons by Texas.

Hale pushed the process of bringing TDCJ into compliance with federal constitutional law which resulted in the settlement of the famous long running Ruiz prison case.  He insisted on the appointment of women wardens in TDCJ and relied on women legal advisors during the Ruiz negotiations in the federal court case before federal Judge William Wayne Justice.  After leaving the TDCJ system, Hale continued to personally travel over the state training corrections and police officers in weapons employment and providing free ammunition and weapons for training with funds primarily provided by former Mayor Jerry Hodge.

Hale, with four other local officials, and with the help of his wife, Claudia Stravato, Chief of Staff to Lt. Governor Bob Bullock, secured the establishment of the Texas Tech School of Pharmacy in Amarillo with the hope that it would eventually help with the expansion of the Texas Tech Medical School and the entire medical center.

Hale and a small group of former marines worked with then Congressman Mack Thornberry to have the Veteran’s Administration rename the Amarillo VA Hospital in honor of Marine Thomas E. Creek, a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Creek, who had been raised on Amarillo’s north side of town, had never been adequately recognized for his sacrifice.

In his later years, Hale taught criminal justice courses and weapons courses for Amarillo College.  A licensed law enforcement firearms instructor, he trained hundreds of prison officers, law enforcement personnel and military personnel, using grant money at no expense to state government.  He established a Corrections Officer Scholarship for students going into corrections at AC from his teaching salary.

In 2010, Hale was named a Graduate of Distinction by West Texas A & M University in spite of taking nine years to finish his college degree.  During his life, Hale was active in many civic and charitable organizations including Potter County Merger Study Committee, Potter County Jail Study Committee, Randall County Jail Study Committee, Amarillo Rape Crisis Service, Regional MHMR Committee on Alcoholism, Potter County Republican Party, Amarillo Child Care Association, Catholic Family Services, Amarillo NAACP, Texas Civil Liberties Union, Texas Nature Conservancy, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Amarillo Rifle and Pistol Club.

Hale had a special love for mules, hunting, and building fence at his homeplace in Gruver.  He raised and rode mules for many years and hunted in the mountains of New Mexico and Colorado any time he could.

Hale was preceded in death by his parents, Selden Hale Jr. and Pauline Hale; brother, John Garland Hale; and sister, Mona Hale.

Hale is survived by his wife and fellow political activist, Claudia DeLaughter Stravato; five children, Sarah Hale Uselding and husband Shawn, Mona Maria Hale and husband Brandon Atchley of Childress, Selden B. Hale, IV, former marine of Amarillo, Michael Stravato of Houston, and Anna Stravato Ashby of Barwell, England; 10 perfect grandchildren; brother, Dr. Thomas Hale and wife Quetha of Amarillo; nephews, David Hale of Dallas, and Michael Hale of Salt Lake City; niece, Monica Bull of Dallas; and his long-time legal assistant, Suzanne “Suzy” Stahl of Amarillo.

The family wishes to especially thank Kristie Lash and Linda Herbst of Goodcare Home Health company, and Lisa Forbis, R.N. and Melissa Estrada, LVN of BSA Hospice of the Southwest, who provided excellent and loving care to Selden during his final months.  The family asks that memorials be made to the Selden B. Hale Correctional Officer Scholarship Fund at Amarillo College in lieu of flowers.

Arrangements are being handled by Boxwell Brothers Funeral Directors in Amarillo.  The family will receive friends from 6-8 p.m., Tuesday, September 13, 2022, at Boxwell Brothers Funeral Home. The funeral will be at 10 a.m., Wednesday, September 14, 2022, in the Boxwell Brothers Ivy Chapel located at 2800 Paramount Blvd.  Hale will be buried in a family service at the Hansford County Cemetery in Spearman at 4 p.m.

28 Replies to “Selden B. Hale III”

  1. Selden was one of a kind, very passionate about his work and so knowledgeable. I was lucky to have him as an instructor at Amarillo College many years ago. Wonderful legacy he left behind. My condolences to his family.

  2. I’m so sorry, Claudia, my heart goes out to you and my deepest condolences, to the family. As you all very well knew, Selden (Mr. Hale) was one hell of a man, with that deep voice that would command full attention, and his towering presence with a John Wayne swagger, was straight out of a Tom Ford movie. As a kid, he used to scare the shit out of me… he wasn’t trying to, he just did, he seemed bigger than life. Once I got older and more mature, I realized a whole other side of him, his sense of fairness and unflinching regard for others less fortunate. All and all to me, he was a Cowboy with a heart and that’s how I’ll remember him.. Adios partner

  3. My heart is hurting today for the loss of this old character, who I am lucky to have had as my lawyer once during a very difficult time. My deepest sympathies to his family and friends. May you find comfort in your loving memories and just knowing what a lasting impact he has made in not only the local community of the Texas Panhandle, but many, many others, as well. Truly an amazing man!

  4. Claudia, I was so saddened to read of Selden’s death in the AAS paper on Sunday. I know the loss of your life’s partner is terribly hard. Please know that I think of you often, especially in these troubled and scary times, but especially now knowing of the loss you are experiencing. However, I was buoyed to learn that you and Selden shared the joy of 10 perfect grandchildren. Tom’s and my 7 grandchildren are a joy and a reminder that life goes forward. My love to you and yours in this most sad time.

  5. I am so sorry for your loss. Such a distinguished man. An amazing history of his life legacy. I am glad I had the pleasure of meeting him. May he rest in peace. My condolences to his family and friends.

  6. Back in the 70’s when I left the DA’s office I went to work with Fairweather, Hale and Storrs. What a great adventure that turned out to be. Selden was indeed a legend. Charlie’s gone and now Selden. Gene and I are still hanging on as best we can. Adios Selden. God Bless Selden and Texas.

  7. Having worked in Selden’s office for several years, I am saddened to hear of his passing. I thought he would live forever. I am flooded with memories of him barreling through the office yelling for Suzy and telling her to “come on, take me to the courthouse’. I also remember the day I asked him if he would be the cowboy for my daughter’s pre-school Cowboy Day and bring Parker so the kids could experience a mule ride. I don’t think he really wanted to do it, but he did agree. I have so many pictures of him lifting each child onto to Parker and walking around the empty lot, so that each child could have a ride. The kids were thrilled, and I appreciated him even more. I always told him that he had been born in the wrong century. Thank goodness I knew him. I could tell so many more stories, but right now my thoughts and prayers are with Sarah, Maria and Blue. Your dad was quite the character, and quite the man. To all of you, I am so sorry for your loss.

  8. Selden never backed down, he was a hooking bull. We are all blessed to have been in Selden’s orbit. Rest now, Selden.

  9. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to know Seldon as a Lawyer but most importantly as my friend. He was a great man and I’m saddened by this tremendous loss. RIP Dear Friend, see you on the other side.

    1. Claudia, so sorry for your loss. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers are with you.

      God bless you and yours,

      Mike & Diane Huffman

  10. Few understood fairness under the Rule of Law, and the US Constitution like Selden He tried his best to educate others this understanding. His love of history and the Panhandle led to many interesting conversations between us. Bless his Claudia, his family and Suzie.

  11. What a splendid obituary! But how could it be otherwise when Selden’s life was the subject? He lived a full life, utterly serious and committed, yet with ample room for laughter. He taught my grandchildrren to examine inherited prejudice in all matters, even questioning the widespread preference for horses over mules. There was much of the stubborn wisdom of the mule in him, I think.

    He was also something of an old-fashioned gentleman. When I expressed interest in reading a book on prison administration in Texas, he insisted on escorting me out to my car, his arms full of books. Generosity to others and to life—where does one begin?

    Thank you, thank you—
    Grace Mojtabai

  12. I have fond memories of him from when I was a kid hanging around my Mom and Dad’s office. He was like a bonus grandpa at times, and loaned out his file room for my TV space! He will be greatly missed. Praying for your family during this difficult time.

    1. Selden always enjoyed making popcorn and watching at least a few minutes of a movie with you in between appointments with clients or court appearances. Sweet, sweet memories.

  13. Selden I’m going to miss our morning reading of the paper. You will forever be “My Guy” to me. I have enjoyed the pleasure of being your caregiver the last two years. I’ve got to know someone that has accomplished so many great things in his lifetime.

  14. Heartfelt condolences to the family. I didn’t know Mr. Hale very well (other than from visits to his family in Houston) but heard many stories about his role in fighting for justice from Mike. A lion and champion for human rights — Texas lost a great one. What a lovely tribute and life well-lived for such an amazing man.

  15. It was my great pleasure and honor to work closely with Selden during his tenure on the Criminal Justice Board. I found him to be honest, plain-spoken, and committed to improving our agency. He was most certainly the catalyst for a number of major positive changes in our culture and operation.

  16. Selden was a champion of the little guy and a friend of anyone in need. He and Claudia are very special people. Rest in Peace Selden.

  17. All of the state if Texas but especially has suffered a great loss with his passing. He was always very kind to me. You each have my condolences and prayers for peace snd comfort.

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