Houston Forward Times

25 March 2014 Written by  Forward Times Staff

Empowering Women Who Empower Us All: Vanessa D. Gilmore

vanessa gilmore


Judge Gilmore was appointed a United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of Texas in the Houston Division by President Clinton. She took the oath of office on June 10, 1994. With that appointment, she became the youngest sitting federal judge in the nation.

The native of Silver Spring, Maryland was the youngest member of her freshman class at her alma mater, Hampton University. Gilmore decided to undertake a career in law after she represented herself and won a minor civil lawsuit and graduated from the University of Houston Law Center in 1981.

After being licensed by the State Bar of Texas in 1982, Gilmore began a 13-year tenure at a Houston law firm that later became known as Vickery, Kilbride, Gilmore & Vickery. There she specialized in civil litigation. Gilmore has been an active member of the Houston civic community, serving on the boards of a number of organizations including the YWCA, Child Advocates, End Hunger Network and the Houston Ballet. She also became involved in the Texas political arena while serving as counsel, and teacher in the area of election law. Her civic activities outside of the courtroom brought her to the attention of Governor Ann Richards who in 1991 appointed Gilmore to the Texas Department of Commerce Policy Board, where she also served as chairperson from 1992 to 1994. Her appointment to that board made Judge Gilmore the first African-American to serve on this board responsible for increasing business and tourism and job training development in Texas. In 1993, she also served as chairperson of Texans for NAFTA. In this capacity, she worked regularly with diplomatic leaders, including the President of Mexico, to increase U.S. trade opportunities. Judge Gilmore was nominated to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and became the first University of Houston graduate to be appointed to the Federal bench. She is a sought after lecturer and speaker and has published noteworthy opinions on patients’ rights, the first amendment and copyright and patent law. She serves on the board and advisory boards of a number of charitable organizations including the Houston Zoo, San Jacinto Girl Scouts, Spaulding for Children and Habitat for Humanity, and on the Board of Trustees for Hampton University. She is the recipient of numerous civic awards for community service and is a member of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church and Jack & Jill of America, Houston Chapter. She is the proud mother of one son, Sean Harrison Gilmore.

Additional Information About Vanessa Gilmore

Judge, Author, Mother are just some of the ways to describe this Renaissance woman. After a first career as a fashion buyer, Vanessa Gilmore decided to undertake a career in law after representing herself and winning a minor civil lawsuit. In 1994 when she was sworn in, she was then the youngest sitting federal judge in the nation.

Her meteoric rise left her little time for a personal life. Unwilling to give up her desire to parent, she adopted her son. Motivated in part by her own experiences and those of other women and families who struggle with work/life integration, she decided to write about adoption in "Saving the Dream".

Gilmore is also the author of "You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: Tales From a Judicial Diva", a humorous autobiographical look at her life on and off the bench and "A Boy Named Rocky", a book for the children of incarcerated parents. Judge Gilmore is a frequent speaker and lecturer on issues related to these children and their families

Judge Gilmore is a master storyteller and is a favorite and sought after speaker for community groups and organizations. She is the recipient of numerous civic awards for community service and is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the Links, Inc., and Jack and Jill of America. She serves on the boards of Inprint (a literary arts organization that works to inspire readers and writers) and on the Board of Trustees for Hampton University.


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