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James C. Harrington was a young man living in Michigan when he first learned of César Chávez’s grape boycott for the United Farm Workers. Moved by the dismal conditions under which migrant farmworkers in the United States lived and worked, Jim packed up his car and moved to South Texas. The year was 1973.
Jim fought tirelessly to improve the lives of farm workers in the Rio Grande Valley, first as a community organizer and then as an attorney. Jim’s advocacy created lasting policy changes for the workers, including workers’ compensation coverage, the availability of unemployment benefits, toilets and handwashing facilities in the field and a prohibition on the back-breaking short-handled hoe.
In 1983, Jim headed to Austin to expand the scope of his civil rights practice. After working for several years as the Legal Director for the Texas Civil Liberties Union, Jim founded the Texas Civil Rights Project on September 23, 1990.
Jim directed TCRP for twenty-five years, growing the organization into the sophisticated legal advocacy organization it is today.
“I didn’t know how it was going to play out,” Jim Harrington said. “We just responded to things that happened, and a lot of stuff happened in Texas. When I look at that 25-year anniversary, it’s astonishing the amount of things that have happened.”
In February 2016, Mimi Marziani, a nationally recognized expert in voting rights and democracy reform, was announced as the group’s second Executive Director.
(above) Photo of Jim Harrington, photographed in 1979 in San Juan at the first Texas United Farm Workers convention by Alan Pogue for the Texas Observer.