Louise Hilma Ballerstedt Raggio, the trailblazing Dallas lawyer instrumental in winning equal legal rights for Texas women.
She was a nationally known force in women’s rights but maintained a lower profile in Texas, where she needed to work for change within a conservative political environment.
Ms. Raggio also managed to meld a successful professional life with her personal deep obligations to her family and young people, especially women law students that included former White House counsel Harriet Miers of Dallas.
She was born in her maternal grandfather’s house in Austin, the daughter of Swedish and German immigrants. She grew up on a Central Texas cotton farm between Elgin and Manor, east of Austin.
Ms. Raggio was class valedictorian at Austin High School. Four years later, in 1939, she graduated magna cum laude from the University of Texas at Austin, with a bachelor’s degree and a teacher’s certificate.
But before becoming a classroom teacher, Ms. Raggio took a nine-month Rockefeller fellowship in public administration at American University in Washington, where she met her idol, Eleanor Roosevelt. In 1941, while on the fellowship, she met and married Grier Raggio. Mr. Raggio, who also was a lawyer, died in 1988.
Ms. Raggio continued her education by attending night law school in Dallas at her husband’s urging. Ms. Raggio earned her law degree and forged a precedent-setting legal career. She became the first female assistant district attorney in Dallas County, where she was the first woman to prosecute a criminal case.
She later joined her husband in a private practice, where she took giant steps for all women. Frustrated by archaic Texas law that required her to get her husbands’ signature each time she filed a legal document, she became the ramrod behind the Marital Property Act of 1967, which eliminated centuries of accumulated legal discrimination against Texas women.
In addition to Grier Raggio Jr., Ms. Raggio is survived by two other sons, Kenneth Raggio and Thomas L. Raggio, both of Dallas, and seven grandchildren and six-great grandchild.more » « less