McCall Parkhurst & Horton marks a century of Texas public finance law

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McCall Parkhurst & Horton, the perennial leader among bond counsel in Texas, has made a lot of history over the past century, enough that the firm thinks it is time to take stock and celebrate.

The firm has posted stories about key events on its website, leading up to a centenary celebration in the Dallas headquarters Oct. 24.

“We believe our history is a very important part of who we are as a firm,” said Carol Polumbo, the Austin-based managing partner and bond attorney for numerous state and local deals in Central Texas. “We have a lot of institutional knowledge that is shared within the firm.”

Polumbo alone has worked on more than 1,300 transactions at McCall totaling over $20 billion

Founded by a former secretary of the Texas Senate and assistant to Gov. William P. Hobby as the Law Office of John D. McCall in Dallas in 1919, the firm has dedicated its practice solely to public finance over its 100-year history. That specialization has helped it dominate the bond counsel ranks in Texas and the Southwest for years. In 2018, McCall Parkhurst was credited by Refinitiv for almost $10.3 billion of bond transactions, far ahead of No. 2 Bracewell’s $6 billion.

With offices in Dallas, Austin, Houston and San Antonio, the firm serves as bond counsel for an array of state and local public securities issuers.

The firm touts its record of innovation and involvement in drafting constitutional amendments and statutes in all areas of public finance law. McCall played an active role in the codification of over 70 years of accumulated public finance statutes into the Public Securities Title of the Texas Government Code.

“We do not lobby,” Polumbo said. “But we do consult with the Legislature on bills that may require our expertise or that our clients seek our help on.”

Today, McCall represents about a third of all political subdivisions in Texas. Its partners were on the ground floor for major projects during the state's dramatic growth, including Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Dallas Love Field, the North Texas Municipal Water District, convention center hotels in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio, the Possum Kingdom Lake reservoir, and hospitals and health care facilities across the state.

The firm assisted in the creation of the Texas Turnpike Authority, now known as the North Texas Tollway Authority, and works with state and local political subdivisions on a variety of transportation initiatives.

Polumbo was bond counsel for Texas’ first transportation private activity bonds issued for the North Tarrant Express and LBJ Freeway projects in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

McCall attorneys helped structure a consolidated general obligation credit for five of the state′s major university systems, allowing bond rating upgrades that produced significant cost savings.

In April 1919, the firm’s founder resigned as Gov. William P. Hobby’s private secretary, and the family relocated to Dallas where he opened the Law Offices of John D. McCall in the Western Indemnity Building.

Randolph McCall, the first-born son of John and Reba Randolph McCall, would join his father’s firm but later moved to the Rio Grande Valley, where he developed new citrus farming techniques.

McCall’s second son, Hobby Halbert McCall, named for the governor, was born in Dallas about two weeks after his father opened the firm. Hobby McCall would help usher the firm through decades of explosive growth in Texas.

In 1933, the Public Works Administration hired John McCall to draft enabling legislation that would allow Texas political subdivisions to borrow from the newly created federal agency designed to put men to work during the Depression. However, changes made by the Legislature would have shut down the municipal bond industry. McCall persuaded Gov. Miriam A. “Ma” Ferguson to veto the bill altogether.

In 1934, John D. McCall was remarried to Hazel Bradfield Horton, who had two children with her first husband. Her son Paul Bradfield Horton would become a partner with his stepfather’s firm.

Horton joined the firm in 1948, after previous experience in general practice and civil trial law, and became a partner in 1951.

Over a period of more than 47 years of practice with this firm, Horton served as bond counsel to numerous Texas state agencies, state universities, cities, counties, school districts, river authorities, and other political subdivisions in a range of bond issues. Horton retired in 1994, the year Hobby McCall died. Horton died in 2002.

Hobby McCall graduated from SMU Law School in 1942, and was admitted to the bar in 1943, shortly before heading off to World War II.

After recovery from battle wounds, Hobby McCall began his legal career as a litigator for the United States Department of Justice Tax Division, assigned to the Eastern Civil Trial Section. From 1946 to 1949, Hobby defended several dozen lawsuits brought against the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, ultimately moving to Philadelphia. He joined his father’s law firm in 1949.

Between 1955 and 1965, the firm brought bond validation suits on behalf of the Brazos River Authority, San Antonio River Authority, Tarrant County Water Control and Improvement District No. 1, Texas Turnpike Authority, and Trinity River Authority. The firm also defended attacks on bonds issued by the City of Dallas and Tarrant County.

After Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, which mandated major improvements to the clean and wastewater systems of states and municipalities, Paul McCall authored legislation that permitted the establishment of interstate compacts such as the Red River Compact.

The firm was instrumental in creating the Texas Water Development Board in the 1950s during one of the worst droughts in state history.

In the early 1960s, the law firm was renamed McCall, Parkhurst, Crowe, McCall & Horton, after each of the five members of the firm at that time.

John D. McCall died on March 23, 1962 at age 70, and a few months later, partner Clarence Crowe died of a heart attack at 59.

The three remaining attorneys — Millard Parkhurst, Hobby McCall, and Paul Horton — renamed the firm McCall, Parkhurst & Horton L.L.P.

Today, the firm has 32 full-time practicing attorneys, 18 of whom are partners.

“This ‘top heavy’ structure allows our clients to be represented by seasoned public finance attorneys who know how to deliver legal services in an efficient and cost-effective manner,” the firm says.

In the past decade, it has handled 3,785 bond transactions worth more than $126 billion.

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