14 years ago, I asked my young wife, “What do you think about moving to El Paso?” To say she was shocked was an understatement. El Paso definitely was not on her radar of places to live. At the time, we were living in Houston. I was fresh out of law school and had, thank God, done exceptionally well in school. I was working at a major law firm in downtown and we had all of the perks that a city like Houston has to offer. The future was bright.
But something was missing. In law school, we learned how the law could be used to fight injustice. In my small office on the 17th floor of the Pennzoil building, the only justice being done was for major corporations trying to make more money. I knew very early on in my legal career that I would rather fight for people. But why El Paso?
My first memory of El Paso was a trip I took with my dad to a convention he was attending in El Paso when I was 11 years old. My dad owned a used car dealership and the cars he drove were always “unique.” I will never forget the 1960s era white Cadillac convertible with red leather interior that we drove from Lubbock to the convention in El Paso. Boss Hogg from The Dukes of Hazard would have envied that car! While my dad did his convention, I played in the motel pool. Kids were still allowed to be unsupervised in those days! At night, we went out to great Mexican dinners, the sort of Mexican food that El Paso is famous for. The El Paso trip stood out because it was the only road trip I made alone with my dad and I had thoroughly enjoyed myself in El Paso.
When I was in high school, dad moved from Lubbock to El Paso to start a pool construction company. Both my parents attended Texas Western and were students when the Miners won the basketball championship in 1966. One of his college friends owned a home construction business and needed someone to build pools. Both my parents were fond of UTEP and the city. Dad commuted from Lubbock to El Paso while I finished high school. When I graduated high school, my mom and little sister packed up and moved to El Paso to be with dad.
On break from college, I would often drive out to El Paso to visit. We played golf, ate great Mexican food and made trips over to Juarez to visit and shop. The blended Texan and Mexican culture of El Paso was nothing that I had ever experienced in the very white, very conservative Lubbock. I loved El Paso because of its diversity, its culture and its stunning views—stark desert mountains surrounded by beautiful valley vistas. I made many trips during my college years until my parents divorced and mom moved back to Lubbock. After that, trips to El Paso were few and far between for several years and the thought of moving to El Paso faded as I began my career.
Sitting in that cold Houston office, I got a call from my dad. “Hey, Tuga (my nickname), why don’t you come out and visit some weekend soon?” I took him up on the offer. When I arrived, he introduced me to a lawyer who had his own law firm helping people who had been injured in accidents. We had lunch over a plate of tacos at Lucy’s and this lawyer told me how great it was to practice in El Paso. He told me that he was able to really help people, make a nice living all while still having time to spend with his family. It just so happened, this lawyer needed a young lawyer to help him with his busy practice. He offered me a job on the spot. I guess dad set me up. I thought I was only coming to El Paso to hang out with my dad. I got a lot more than I bargained for.
My wife thought I had gone crazy when I told her I wanted to move to El Paso. Always up for a challenge, she agreed and so began our love affair with El Paso. In April of 2014, we packed up our Jeep with our belongings (we didn’t have much in those days) and made the long trip across the state to El Paso.
Since moving here, we have grown to love El Paso. We are still a part of Texas but we are uniquely El Paso. El Paso is gritty but cool (but not trying to be cool like Austin). The people are really what make El Paso great. Yes, we all have our differences, but what I see are good people who are trying to take care of their families and our community. There is real pride in El Paso, which has only grown in recent years. The revitalization of downtown and the growth that we have seen in the last several years has been exciting to be a part of (except for the horrible construction!). El Paso is truly home. Our three children are all native El Pasoans. My mom decided to retire here in El Paso, so life has come around full circle.
At Harmonson Law Firm, we are proud to play our small part in helping the El Paso community. We truly love representing people in the Borderland who have been hurt through no fault of their own. We are active in the community and are proud to help local organizations like El Paso Fighting Hunger, MADD and the Rotary Club of El Paso. We will continue to be a part of the El Paso community for many years to come as it continues to grow and thrive.