Royal Furgeson has served the justice system for over 50 years as a lawyer, federal judge, and law school dean. He was born in Lubbock, Texas, the oldest of four children. He learned respect for the law and for lawyers at an early age while spending time in the Lubbock courthouse with his father, who was the District Clerk of Lubbock County for several decades. Royal graduated from Texas Tech University in 1964 and from the University of Texas School of Law with honors in 1967. After law school, he served two years as an officer in the United States Army, attaining the rank of captain. In his first year, he was stationed in Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, and in his second year, he was stationed in the Republic of South Vietnam. Royal is proud of his military service, but has always said that he carried a typewriter instead of a rifle during the war, to distinguish his role from the heroes who fought and faced more substantial sacrifices.
After completing his military service, Royal clerked for United States District Judge Halbert Woodward for the Northern District of Texas and then joined the law firm of Kemp, Smith, Duncan and Hammond in El Paso, where he practiced trial law for 24 years. During that time, he became an elected member of the American Law Institute, a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, president of the El Paso Bar Association, president of the El Paso Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates, and chair of the United Way of El Paso.
In 1994, Royal began his tenure as a United States District Judge, serving first in the Western District of Texas and then in the Northern District of Texas. He also served as a panel judge on the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, president of the Federal Judges Association, and chair of the Judicial Resources Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States. Royal has always been grateful for the opportunity to serve his country in the federal courts. It was privilege that he never took for granted.
After 19 years on the federal bench, Royal retired and became the founding Dean of the UNT Dallas College of Law, successfully navigating the ABA accreditation process to secure provisional accreditation for the law school. Royal said that he underestimated the difficulty of starting a law school from scratch and that he really underestimated the difficulty of getting ABA approval for accreditation. Those challenges, however, never diminished his gratitude for being given the opportunity to launch Dallas’s first public law school under the UNT brand. In 2018, he retired a second time, becoming Dean Emeritus, to once more resume the practice of law with FurgesonMalouf Law PLLC, where he now practices primarily in the areas of mediation and arbitration.
Royal’s numerous honors include the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Texas Tech Alumni Association, the West Texas Legal Legend Award from the Texas Tech University School of Law, the Leon Green Award from the Texas Law Review, the Faculty Award from the University of Texas School of Law, the Honorary Serjeant’s Inn of Dallas-Fort Worth from the William “Mac” Taylor American Inn of Court, the Morris Harrell Professionalism Award from the Dallas Bar Association and the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism, and Jurist of the Year from the Texas Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates. In 2016, he was named as one of the 50 Lions of the Texas Bar by the Texas Lawbook. In 2018, he received the Trailblazer Award from the African-American Lawyers Section of the State Bar of Texas and the Champion of Justice Award from Legal Aid of Northwest Texas.