Knowledge, accountability, and trust will be the cornerstones of Judge Katherine “Kat” Thomas’s tenure at the 184th Criminal District Court. Thomas is committed to public service and restoring trust in our system. After earning a degree from Spelman College and an internship with President Barack Obama, she graduated from Howard Law and came back home to Houston. Thomas has made her career fighting to help others, and she’s working to make our communities safe.
With a dare from a mentor, Thomas was given 24 hours to decide to run for judge. She was told, “Why Not You?” You have the credentials, drive, passion, desire, and knowledge to be a Judge. Why allow your age to be a barrier to achieving this goal?” So, without allowing doubt to consume her, Thomas told her mentor, “I am going for it.”
Once Thomas made up her mind, it was full speed ahead. Mobilizing family, friends, classmates, and volunteers to create a ground game that spanned all of Harris County to make people aware of who she is and what she stands for. She made a concerted effort to attend a diverse list of events representing all people from all walks of life and traveling throughout the county to address the concerns of all the constituents she would serve. This is how she would unseat her incumbent and the republican who ran against her to become the youngest judge in Texas at a mere 30 years old.
This is the leadership we need in the 21st century to truly make a change in the United States of America. We need to encourage, support, and develop young leaders who are fearless, committed to truth and justice, and not afraid to put in the work to achieve their goals. This is the perfect description of Thomas. Her parents, Scott, and Athena Thomas, say that this is how she has always been. “Katherine auditioned for the High School for Performing and Visual Arts without consistently being in plays. She knew that was the school to explore her interest in the arts, and she did what it took to do well in her auditions to be chosen. Katherine came home and told us she wanted to go to Harvard University to do a summer program. We were O.K. with it, but Kat did everything needed to ensure that opportunity came to pass. Kat is driven and knows what she wants. Once she makes up her mind, she goes for it with everything she has.”
Thomas is proud to share that four generations of her family have supported her run for judge. Her grandmother, Judy Earls, 76, and great grandmother, Mattie Young, 95, were excited to vote for their beloved grand and great-granddaughter to be the youngest judge in Texas. “I come from four generations of hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and love. My great-grandmother is my reason, my motivation, my why. This moment means so much more to me than just a mere election. Coming from a history where many of my ancestors were not allowed to vote, I now have the opportunity not only to vote but to be a voice in the community. With the amazing support from my family, I have no choice but to succeed.” Thomas believes it is a privilege to vote and to be elected to serve the people of our community. Her great–grandmother, Mrs. Mattie Young, was the first person in their family to earn an advanced degree, and her grandmother, Mrs. Judy Earls, also continued that tradition. They are her motivation to strive for excellence in everything she does. Thomas will continue to work hard not to let her family down and the community she has been elected to serve. Kat’s grandmother was excited to say, “Kat is making history.” That is why Katherine wanted to vote with her 95-year-old great-grandmother because it was vital for her to share that moment with the matriarch of their family, who made this achievement possible.
Thomas also understands what is at stake. “I have experienced in my own family how people have been disproportionately affected by the criminal justice system. Whether issues with sentencing and bail disparities, it is why I want to bring my voice and lens as a Black Woman from Houston, a Black Woman who comes from sharecroppers and people who couldn’t vote and had to fight for the ability to vote. They conducted sit-ins and fought for their rights, so I should never complain about anything. It is a privilege to continue this legacy for my family.”
With such a determined spirit, dedication, and desire to succeed, it was a privilege to interview Judge Katherine “Kat” Thomas of the 184th Criminal District Court.
What inspired you to want to be a Judge?
Kat: I loved doing community service children’s projects growing up. I had the desire to influence the world around me. I saw deficiencies in our community, and I wanted to fix them. I also suffered from Imposter Syndrome which is when you think you aren’t enough or not qualified. My mentors encouraged me just to do it. They gave me 24 hours to decide and followed up to ask about my decision. I answered YES because I wanted to change the world around me.
What made you a better candidate than your opponents?
Kat: I am a native Houstonian. I am a proud double HBCU Graduate of Spelman College and Howard University Law School. I am a Trial Attorney, which gives me direct experience working with the community. I see the disparities that Black and brown people face every day, so I have a unique approach to applying the law. My opponents couldn’t bring to the bench the life experiences and connection to diverse cultures that are integral to who I am.
What do you want Houstonians to know about you?
Kat: You are never too young to start accomplishing your goals. Young people must believe in themselves and be bold enough to do it. It is also important to vote in local elections because those leaders affect your everyday life. Lastly, I genuinely care about our community. I want our young people to know they can be a Judge at 30 years old. Age doesn’t limit your goals. Where you get your education should be a place that nurtures your soul and empowers you. HBCU’s were polarized because people believed students didn’t get a quality education. That is the farthest from the truth. Studies have shown that the most successful Black and brown students studied at HBCU’s because they were able to grow and flourish in those environments.
How will you engage with the community once elected?
Kat: I will have a Community Court that partners with existing organizations that have successfully served our communities. I want to deal with real issues that plague our community and offer real solutions that foster restorative justice. I want offenders to get the help they need and move forward successfully, having been given the support they need to be an asset to our society.
Keep your eye out for Judge Katherine “Kat” Thomas. She will truly make a difference for many years in Houston’s Criminal District Court system. Please allow her success to be an inspiration for encouraging other young people interested in public service. It takes a village to create leaders who can make a difference in our communities. They need our financial, moral, and physical support to run for office and win so that they can actually make a difference.