U.S. attorney general under President George W. Bush, dean of Belmont College of Law
The United States of America is a powerful emblem of freedom. With that freedom comes the great responsibility to actively participate in our democracy. Today that means putting our Constitution and the principles of our great democracy above our personal politics, and finding ways to discuss our ideas with civility, reason and respect. I commend The Vanderbilt Project on Unity & American Democracy for working to elevate our discourse and propel us beyond polarization.
Moments after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor administered the oath that made Alberto R. Gonzales the Nation’s 80th Attorney General, President George W. Bush explained why he had chosen Gonzales to lead the Department of Justice, “Al has been a model of courage and character to his fellow citizens”, the President said. “I’ve witnessed his integrity, his decency, his deep dedication to the cause of justice. Now he will advance that cause as the Attorney General and ensure that more Americans have the opportunity to achieve their dreams.”
Gonzales was with the President after he returned to Washington on September 11, 2001 as he began to formulate the nation’s response to the terrorist attacks against the United States. As Attorney General, Gonzales maintained the Department’s focus on its key objectives, including preventing acts of terrorism and reducing the threats of gangs, drugs, and violent crime.After graduating from Rice University and Harvard Law School, Gonzales worked as a business lawyer for 13 years at the Houston law firm of Vinson & Elkins. In 1995 he resigned his law partnership to serve as General Counsel to Texas Governor George W. Bush. After three years the Governor appointed him Texas Secretary of State where he served as Senior Advisor to the Governor, Chief Elections Officer and the Governor’s lead liaison on Mexico and border issues. In 1999 the Governor appointed him as a Justice on the Supreme Court of Texas.
After winning a statewide election in 2000 to remain on the Supreme Court, Gonzales resigned from the bench to accept a commission as Counsel to the President of the United States. He served as White House Counsel for four years prior to his confirmation as Attorney General.Among his many professional associations, Judge Gonzales is a Commissioner of the Commission for Uniform Legislation and member of the American Law Institute. He is a former board director of the State Bar of Texas and former president of the Houston Hispanic Bar Association. The State Bar of Texas awarded a Presidential Citation to Gonzales for his work in addressing the legal needs of the indigent and the National Hispanic Bar Association honored him as the Latino Lawyer of the Year. Early in his professional career the Texas Young Lawyers Association selected Gonzales as the Outstanding Young Lawyer of Texas.
Gonzales has also been active in a wide range of community organizations, including presiding as president of Leadership Houston and of the Houston Hispanic Forum. Presently he serves on the NCAA Division 1 Committee on Infractions and the board of directors of the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville. For his community and professional service he received the Harvard Law School Association Award and was recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus of Rice University.
As the son of former migrant workers, many recognize Gonzales’ appointment as Attorney General of the United States as the embodiment of the American dream. His work in the Hispanic community and his achievements as a role model have earned him recognition as Hispanic American of the Year by HISPANIC Magazine and one of The 25 Most Influential Hispanics in America by TIME Magazine.
Gonzales is married and a father to three sons. He attended the U.S. Air Force Academy and is an Air Force veteran. Presently he is Dean and Doyle Rogers Distinguished Professor of Law at Belmont University College of Law in Nashville, Tennessee.