Regent Gary Bledsoe is President of the Texas NAACP and has held that position since being elected in 1991. The Austin lawyer, who specializes in public interest law, employment and civil rights law, has a longstanding relationship with the NAACP as a member of its National Board since 2003, and is currently the Chair of the National Criminal Justice Committee of the NAACP.
Bledsoe's ties with the NAACP enabled him to make substantial civil rights changes, which include his handling of racial discrimination complaints against the Austin Department of Public Safety that dismantled racial barriers that prevented minorities and women from becoming Texas Rangers. His involvement in the Cedar Avenue case resulted in heightened public awareness of the Austin Police Department's mishandling of minority youth and led to widespread changes in how police abuse cases are handled. The landmark settlement resulted in the creation of a scholarship program for college-bound minority youth. Bledsoe also negotiated an African-American student scholarship program with HEB which provides $25,000 in scholarships for students attending Texas Southern University, Prairie View A&M University, and Huston-Tillotson University. Bledsoe's legal acumen has earned him an AV rating according to the prestigious legal publication Martindale-Hubbell, the second-highest rating available for lawyers.
Bledsoe has received several lawyers of the year awards from the Texas Attorney General and the Travis County Bar Association, the Austin and national NAACP, and the Austin Area Urban League, among others. He has also received the Kelly Alexander State President of the Year Award, the Juanita Jackson Mitchell Award for Legal Advocacy and the Benjamin Hooks Keeper of the Flame Award and is on the Houston Hall of Fame at Riverside General Hospital. All have recognized him for his legal acumen and civil rights efforts.
He earned a Doctorate of Jurisprudence from the University Of Texas School Of Law, where he is the permanent class president of the Class of 1976.