There's no need to introduce Bill Holston -- attorney, KERA contributor, nature-trekker -- to longtime Friends of Unfair Park; he's one of the good ones, and has been for a long, long while. But Bill's about to disappear from these virtual pages, at least for a little while; he writes, "I promise I'll make time for blogging," but he'll be busier than usual. That's because after 25 years at his namesake law firm, Brother Bill has a new job: He is taking over as CEO of The Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, which offers gratis legal representation to those who've come to this country, and Dallas specifically, after having fled religious and political persecution in their home countries.
Bill's been taking on pro bono asylum cases for the last 13 years; at long last, when offered, he decided to lead the charge. "It is with mixed emotion that I leave the excellent lawyers and staff at Sullivan and Holston (where I've been for over 25 years) , and I do that only because the work I've done with HRI is the most fulfilling work I've ever done," he writes. "I sincerely believe it is my calling to work with this great organization." The formal announcement, dispatched late yesterday, follows.
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William O. Holston, Jr., Appointed Executive Director of Human Rights Initiative of North Texas
DALLAS - January 9, 2012 - The Human Rights Initiative of North Texas (HRI) today announced that William O Holston, Jr., has been selected to serve as its new Executive Director. In his new role, Mr. Holston will oversee the nonprofit agency which provides legal representation and social services free of charge to clients who have fled persecution and arrived in North Texas, often times with few or no resources.
Holston is a Dallas attorney who has a special passion for helping vulnerable people seeking refuge in the United States. Since 1987, Mr. Holston has provided pro bono legal representation for political and religious asylum applicants from 18 countries in Immigration Court. He has volunteered his services for HRI for the past 10 years. In 2005, Mr. Holston was awarded the Angel of Freedom Award by HRI, because of his commitment to provide pro bono services to clients. Because of a generous gift from Charlie and Meredith Stimson, two of Mr. Holston's clients, HRI"s pro bono program is named the William O. Holston Jr. Pro Bono Program.
"We feel fortunate that Mr. Holston has joined HRI as CEO," says Robert Graham, Chairman, HRI Board of Directors. "Bill is particularly well-suited to lead HRI into the future and he has demonstrated through years of service to HRI, a deep commitment to serving our clients and a true passion for HRI's mission. We believe he will be a great leader for the organization."
HRI clients are often fleeing countries where they were imprisoned and tortured for their religious beliefs and political opinions. Its women's and children's program provides assistance to victims of domestic abuse, human trafficking and those who are victims of crime. The challenges faced by HRI's clients are immense.
"Our clients come to America with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They are prohibited from working and not entitled to government benefits but have taken huge risks so they have a chance at freedom and safety in our country," says Mr. Holston. "Our new challenges include providing social services to clients through our pro bono lawyers, doctors and other volunteers. We need to provide increasing social services especially given the huge backlog of cases in Immigration Court."
Before joining HRI, Holston was a partner in the firm, Sullivan & Holston. He is a member of the Transition to Law planning committee. Mr. Holston is a teacher and lay minister at Fellowship Bible Church Arapaho, serves on the board of Art Conspiracy, Inc., is a frequent commentator on KERA 90.1 FM in Dallas and contributes pieces on local hiking excursions to D Magazine's FrontBurner blog. He holds a J.D., from Southern Methodist University and earned a B.A. from The University of Texas at Dallas.
Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that provides free legal assistance to refugees and immigrants in the North Texas area who are the victims of human rights abuses. It was founded in 1999 by attorney Elizabeth "Betsy" Healy and social worker Serena Simmons Connelly.
HRI assists clients through two main programs: the Asylum program and the Women and Children's program. The Asylum program assists refugees who have fled to the United States because of past persecution, or the fear of persecution based on one of the five protected grounds (race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group). The Women and Children's program assists immigrant women and children who are the victims of violence and/or abuse and neglect.