GSA Honors Judge Mary Lou Robinson for Women's History Month

March 29, 2021

Judge Mary Lou Robinson in robe

Judge Mary Lou Robinson was a legal pioneer, women's rights activist, civic leader and federal judge. She grew up in Amarillo, Texas, in the 1930's during the Dust Bowl, and later attended law school in Austin at the University of Texas. At that time, she was one of only six women enrolled in law studies.

After earning her law degree, she moved back home to Amarillo where she became a leader in the Amarillo legal community. It was there she began her 63 year judicial career which included many women’s firsts. According to colleagues, Judge Robinson acknowledged the pressure of being a young female pioneer in a male dominated profession and once said, "If I really fouled up, it wasn't Mary Lou that fouled up. It was women who couldn't do the job."

In honor of her countless contributions, in 2018 the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) renamed the federal courthouse in her hometown of Amarillo. The J. Marvin Jones Federal Building and Courthouse became the J. Marvin Jones Federal Building and Mary Lou Robinson United States Courthouse.

Judge Robinson not only inspired women seeking professions in law, but women in all walks and phases of life. Her legacy includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • She served as a judge for more than 60 years, more than 35 years of which were as a federal district judge in the Northern District of Texas.
  • She attended and graduated law school at the University of Texas and later went into private practice in Amarillo where she was one of only two female attorneys practicing there.
  • In 1955, Judge Robinson became the first woman in Amarillo history to serve as a judge higher than the Justice of the Peace level and was the first Potter County Court at Law Judge.
  • She was elected State District Court Judge in 1960.
  • In the 1960s and 1970s, she could often be found making speeches about women's rights, helping to effect chan ge in laws that prohibited married women from entering into binding contracts.
  • In 1973, she became an Associate Justice of the Seventh State Court of Appeals, making her the first female Appellate Judge in the entire state of Texas. She later became the chief justice of that court.
  • She made the top 100 lawyers in Texas list.
  • In 1979, she was nominated and confirmed to the federal bench, again being only the second woman to serve as a U.S. district judge in Texas.
  • She won the Sandra Day O’Conner award for professional excellence.
  • She took senior judge status in 2016, and inactive senior status in 2018.
  • In 2018, the federal courthouse she served in was named in her honor.
  • She died Jan. 26, 2019 at the age of 92.

To learn more about the courthouse, visit J. Marvin Jones Federal Building and Mary Lou Robinson United States Courthouse. To learn more about GSA’s historic properties, visit GSA's Historic Buildings.

Last Reviewed: 2021-03-29