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Keynote Presenters

James Harrington Photo

Jim Harrington

Texas Civil Rights Project Director and Attorney

Born in Lansing, Michigan, Jim Harrington received his law degree in 1973 from the University of Detroit, from where he also had earned a Master’s degree in philosophy.

After law school, Harrington worked ten years as Director of the South Texas Project in the Rio Grande Valley, along the Mexican border. His legal work involved asserting the rights of farm laborers and poor people in Valley, especially its colonias, where he handled litigation involving police brutality, discrimination, and farm worker organizing.

In 1983, Harrington became Legal Director of the Texas Civil Liberties Union in Austin, where he litigated cases involving privacy as a fundamental right, free speech, and equal rights for farm laborers to worker’s compensation and unemployment benefits. He also helped organize the evening East Austin pro bono clinic for low-income people.

In 1990, Harrington founded the Texas Civil Rights Project, a statewide non-profit foundation that promotes social, racial, and economic justice and civil liberty, through the legal system and public education, for low income and poor persons. The Project has a staff of 40 with offices in Austin, El Paso, San Juan, Houston, and Odessa. Harrington has handled cases involving grand jury discrimination, voting rights, free speech and assembly, and the rights of persons with disabilities.

Harrington was an adjunct professor at University of Texas Law School for 27 years and continues to teach undergraduate writing courses at the university in civil liberties and history-making trials. He volunteered nearly ten years as a Saturday coordinator for the ecumenical Micah 6 food pantry.

Harrington has served on human rights delegations to Honduras and Nicaragua, Chile, Israel and Palestinian territories, and Guatemala. He has visited Turkey twice as part of interfaith and judicial delegations.

Harrington is author of Wrestling with Free Speech, Religious Freedom, and Democracy in Turkey: The Political Trials and Times of Fethullah Gülen and The Texas Bill of Rights: A Commentary and Litigation Manual, myriad law review articles, a broad assortment of op-ed pieces, and a half-dozen legal self-help manuals. He has traveled nationally and internationally, lecturing on his books or discussing civil society.

His most recent book, which he co-authored, is Three Mystics Walk into a Tavern: A Once and Future Meeting of Rumi, Meister Eckhart, and Moses de León in Medieval Venice.

State Representative Mary González

State Representative Mary Gonzalez

In November 2012, Mary E. González was elected State Representative for House District 75--an area that includes east El Paso County, the fastest growing parts of the city of El Paso and the towns of Socorro, Clint, Fabens, and Tornillo. Mary was raised in Clint, Texas and graduated from Clint High School.

Mary serves on the Public Education and Agriculture and Livestock Committees in the Texas House. Throughout her time as a State Representative, she has authored numerous bills to improve public schools, increase economic development, and support agriculture in House District 75 and throughout the state.

As a result of her accomplishments, she was named "Freshman of the Year" by the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, a "Champion of Equality" by Equality Texas two sessions in a row, and the 2015 "Advocate of the Year" by the same organization. In 2015, she was the youngest inductee into the El Paso Women's Hall of Fame. She is currently serving her second term as Treasurer for the Mexican American Legislative Caucus and was recently elected Secretary in newly-formed House Border Caucus.

Mary received her Bachelor Degree from the University of Texas at Austin and her Master's Degree from St. Edward's University. Currently, she is pursuing her Doctoral degree in Curriculum and Instruction- Cultural Studies in Education at UT-Austin.

Previously, she has worked at the National Hispanic Institute, the University of Texas at Austin, and as the Assistant Dean for Student Multicultural Affairs at Southwestern University. Mary currently serves as Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for Allgo, Texas' state-wide Queer People of Color organization.

Mary has been recognized by Latino Leaders Magazine for her leadership in education, was recognized as one of ten "Next Generation Latinas" by Latina Magazine, and as one of the 10 newly-elected politicians to watch in the nation by NBC Latino.