Christina Melton Crain
Dallas Bar Association
by Heather Bailey New
[reprinted from January 2009 HEADNOTES]
On Saturday, January 24, 2009, the DBA will inaugurate Christina Melton Crain as its 100th president. Christina brings to the DBA a wealth of leadership and vision for mentoring the youth of Texas.
While serving as the first female chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice (and later having a prison named in her honor in Gatesville, Texas), Christina implemented a number of programs, like Amachi Texas, which provide hope to the children of incarcerated offenders.
As DBA president, Christina plans to reinforce and expand the DBA’s mentoring efforts. With the help of Harriet Miers and Rob Roby, who will co-chair a new mentoring committee within the DBA, the bar is positioned to play an active role in an expansive city-wide mentoring effort.
In addition to focusing on existing DBA programs such as E-Mentoring, Esq. and Transition to Law Practice, Christina will introduce the Amachi Texas program to the DBA.
“Amachi” is a Nigerian Ibo word that means “Who knows but what God has brought us through this child?”
Amachi Texas is a joint initiative between the governor’s office, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the OneStar Foundation, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas. With a $3.78 million grant from the state, its mission is to break the intergenerational cycle of crime and incarceration and give an often forgotten group of children the chance to reach their highest potential. It’s what Christina calls the “No-Entry Policy” — a goal to keep these kids from ever entering the corrections system.
In November, Christina was recognized by Oprah Winfrey for her work with Amachi Texas, when she was selected as one of 80 women to participate in the first-ever O Magazine White House Leadership Project. The November 2008 edition of the magazine highlighted Christina’s motivation: “I feel these initiatives have truly changed lives. And to me there is no greater cause.”
In her law practice, Christina specializes in children/juvenile representation, ad litem representation, and mediation. Christina was born and raised in Dallas and attended Kimball High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree in government from the University of Texas and a law degree from Oklahoma City University School of Law.
Her involvement in local and state politics has close family ties. Her grandfather was a Dallas County justice of the peace, her father was the Dallas County treasurer for 25 years, and her husband, Nate, is a former Dallas County Republican Party chairman.
In 1999, Texas Lt. Gov. Rick Perry appointed her as his ex-officio member to the Texas Supreme Court Rules Advisory Committee, a position she held until 2001. Her service to the state continued in April 2001, when Gov. Perry appointed her to the Texas Board of Criminal Justice. She was named chairman in February 2003, becoming the first woman to ever lead the nine-member board, a position she held until May of 2008.
Many people have served as mentors to Christina, including DBA Past President Bob Jordan. As Mr. Jordan explains, “Christina projected extraordinary competence and leadership as a DBA committee member. She clearly was one who should be encouraged to take an even more active role. She thrived on the challenge, and our profession will continue to benefit from her energy and commitment.”
Christina has taken a very active role in several DBA committees, including chairing the Campaign for Equal Access to Justice, serving as a member of the Belo Mansion Expansion team, and chairing or co-chairing the New Member, Bench/Bar Conference, Publications, Media Relations and Memorial & History committees. She also is a past president of the Community Service Fund board of directors.
In addition, Christina is past president of the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers and the Dallas Women Lawyers Association, as well as a former chair of the DAYL Foundation.
Among her professional honors, Christina was the recipient of the DBA’s JoAnna Moreland Outstanding Committee Chair Award in 1999, the DAYL Foundation “Award of Excellence” in 2007, and the DAYL “Outstanding Director Award” in 1999.
In 2002, she received the “Louise Raggio Award” from the Dallas Women Lawyers Association and was named one of the “Best Lawyers Under 40 in Dallas” by D Magazine. She has twice been named to the Dallas Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” tribute and is a four-time recipient of the Texas Monthly magazine “Texas Super Lawyer” naming. She also received a Silver U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor for Voluntarism in 1987, and was named Outstanding Young Texas Ex in 2000.
Her community involvement includes service on the board of directors for the Baylor Health Care System Foundation, leadership roles with the Junior League of Dallas, and service on the board of directors of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of North Texas. She also was elected to the Texas Exes Council of The University of Texas as an at-large member.
And she can sing! Christina regularly sings at local engagements, records jingles, and performs at Bar None, the DBA’s annual variety show that funds the Sarah T. Hughes Diversity Scholarships at the SMU Dedman School of Law. And she is the female vocalist in the local predominantly lawyer band “The Catdaddies.”
Christina is thankful for the countless people who have touched her life because, she explains, “I truly try to learn something from everyone I encounter or work with.” So she thanks her own mentors: her husband Nate, her grandfather Allen Melton, her mother Sandy Stephens, her music teacher John Atherton, her government professor Sarah Weddington, and colleagues such as Louis Nichols, John Griffin, Bob Jordan, Rhonda Hunter, Brian Melton, Nancy Thomas, Rob Roby, Rob Crain, Martha Hardwick Hofmeister, Michele Wong Krause and many, many more.
Because of her mentors, Christina is in a perfect position to “pay it forward.” As DBA Past President Nancy Thomas commented, “Christina is a leader in the truest sense of the word; she leads by example and doesn’t hesitate to roll back her sleeves to get the job done. She has a long history of leadership and service to this association, and she will be an excellent president.”
Heather Bailey New is a former co-chair of the DBA Publications Committee and practices appellate law at Haynes and Boone, LLP.