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History of the Dallas Bar Foundation

Rich in history, driven by purpose.

Arts District Mansion with DBA Sign

The Dallas Bar Foundation (DBF) was established under the State of Texas charter in 1971, with a primary mission to provide vital financial backing for law-related research, publications, educational scholarships, and legal aid services for underserved individuals. With a subsequent charter amendment six years later, DBF also began preserving historic structures, notably its flagship project involving the acquisition and restoration of the historic Belo Mansion for use by both the Dallas Bar Association (DBA) and DBF.


From its inception, DBF has been a driving force in supporting educational initiatives and community welfare, distributing more than $6.6 million in grants since 1981. These funds have bolstered DBA-sponsored charitable and educational efforts, scholarships, and contributions to local non-profit organizations. DBF's funding sources encompass DBA membership dues check-offs, investment interest, an annual DBF Fellows campaign, planned giving, and memorial donations.

The recipients of DBF grants encompass a diverse range of organizations, including the Dallas Urban Debate Alliance, Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (DVAP), DBA Legalline, DISD Judge Barefoot Sanders Law Magnet High School, IGNITE of Texas, Dallas CASA, YMCA Youth and Government Program, Human Rights Initiative, and the Texas High School Mock Trial Competition. Experience the profound impact of DBF's contributions and join us in supporting its meaningful endeavors.

History of the Arts District Mansion

The first project of the Dallas Bar Foundation was to raise money for the purchase and restoration of a historic mansion on Ross Avenue as headquarters for the Dallas Bar Association and the Dallas Bar Foundation. Now considered a jewel of the Dallas Arts District, the Arts District Mansion has an interesting history. The mansion was built in the late 1890s and was the first home in Dallas to have electricity and indoor plumbing. Ross Avenue was the first paved street in Dallas. The home was considered a city showplace due to the many civic and cultural activities held at the home.




Aug 28, 2003


the mansion was leased to George Loudermilk and Will Sparkman, who operated it as a funeral home for fifty years. One of the most infamous events during that time was the 1934 funeral of Clyde Barrow of the Bonnie and Clyde gang.

when the 50-year lease expired, the granddaughter of the original owner, Helen Belo Morrison, agreed to sell the property to the Dallas Bar Association. Ms. Morrison had been born in the house in 1902 and believed the Dallas Bar’s plan to restore the home as the Dallas Legal Education Center was in accordance with the family’s principles and feelings. 

The first capital campaign of the Dallas Bar raised $1,000,000 for the purchase and restoration of the historic mansion in 1977.

the Dallas Bar initiated the Mansion Expansion capital campaign which was named, Raising the Bar, to raise funds for the expansion and renovation of the historic mansion. The Dallas Bar Foundation made the lead gift of $1.5 million dollars.

a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrated the opening of the new Pavilion and the renovated historic mansion. This successful capital campaign raised $14 million from 1,000 donors.

the final phase of the mansion expansion campaign was introduced allowing additional donors to make a contribution for the purpose of retiring the remaining debt on the construction loan.

"Serving as the Chair of the DBF has been a highlight of my service to the Bar and community.  From scholarships and internships to legal aid for the poor and historic preservation through the Arts District Mansion, the DBF significantly impacts the profession and community – its reach is deep.  I am especially proud of the DBF’s support of the Bob Mow Judicial Internship, which honors my former mentor and law partner."

Kim Askew, DLA Piper LLP, Former DBF Chair (2020)

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