Myra Atwell McDaniel was the first African American in Texas history to serve as Secretary of State, and she was the highest-ranking African American appointee in Texas government history at the time. McDaniel was born on December 13, 1932, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Toronto and Eva Lucinda (Yores) Atwell and raised by her mother, who worked in a packing store.
McDaniel attended the prestigious Philadelphia High School for Girls and was awarded a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, where she majored in English literature and graduated with a B.A. in 1954. McDaniel worked as a management analyst and administrator for the Veterans Administration before attending law school at Baldwin Wallace College in Ohio and Indiana University. She married Dr. Ruben R. McDaniel, Jr., Professor of Management Science and Information Systems at the University of Texas at Austin, after working as a management analyst for five years, and they had two children, Ruben III and Diane.
McDaniel began law school at the age of thirty-nine and graduated with honors from the University of Texas School of Law at Austin in 1975, Huston-Tillotson College in 1984, and Jarvis Christian College in 1986.
McDaniel began her legal career as an assistant attorney general in the Office of the Attorney General of Texas in 1975, and she was later promoted to chief of the taxation division from 1979 to 1981. From 1981 to 1982, she was also the Texas Railroad Commission’s assistant general counsel. McDaniel later worked as general counsel for the William B. Wilson Company in San Antonio and Midland, Texas, later in the year.
McDaniel was the general counsel to Texas Governor Mark White from 1983 to 1984. Governor White appointed McDaniel to the position of Secretary of State in 1984, after three months as an associate at Bickerstaff, Heath & Smiley, an Austin, Texas law firm, and only nine years out of law school. McDaniel held this post from 1984 to 1987. In 1987, she resigned.
Soon after leaving office as Secretary of State, McDaniel worked as counsel for Austin Community College and Capital Metro before returning to private practice as a partner at Bickerstaff Health & Smiley from 1987 to 1996. McDaniel was the first African American woman to be named managing partner of a major law firm in 1996, when she joined Bickerstaff, Heath, Smiley, Pollan, Keever, and McDaniel, L.L.P. McDaniel practiced law in Austin, Texas for over thirty years before retiring in 2007.
McDaniel served on numerous civic and community boards, including the Board of Trustees of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas’ Bishop Quinn Foundation, St. Edward’s University, Seton Hospital, and the Episcopal Seminary of Southwest. She also served as senior warden at Saint James Episcopal Church. Throughout her distinguished career, McDaniel received numerous community service awards, including the Sandra Day O’Conner Award for Professional Excellence in 2006.
Myra McDaniel died on February 25, 2010, at the age of 77. Her husband, two children, seven grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, her sister, and two sisters-in-law survived her death.