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50 Most Infrastructure: Thomas W. Mitchell, Professor of Community Development Law

 ©️ John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation – used with permission.

McArthur genius grantee Thomas W. Mitchell teaches how the law can help communities

The Journal of Black Innovation has selected Thomas W. Mitchell, professor of law at Texas A&M University, among the inaugural 50 Most Important African-Americans in Infrastructure as the nation prepares to make unprecedented investments in the future as we identify the experts who can insure that justice is built into the environment.

Professor Mitchell is a professor at Texas A&M University School of Law where he also served as interim Dean in 2017-2018. At Texas A&M, he co-directs the Program in Real Estate and Community Development Law. Prior to joining Texas A&M, he served on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin Law School as a full professor with a chair in law. He is a national expert on property issues facing disadvantaged families and communities and has published leading scholarly works addressing these matters.

A substantial amount of Professor Mitchell’s scholarship addresses property issues disadvantaged communities face, including issues rural and urban African Americans and other disadvantaged people of color experience. In addition, he also has published scholarship that addresses important racial economic inequality issues and scholarship that addresses certain issues African American farmers have experienced with systemic discrimination. His scholarship has informed many other scholars and researchers, many in government at the local, state, and federal level, and many nonprofit organizations.

In addition, Professor Mitchell has done extensive law reform and policy work, most prominently serving as the principal drafter of the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act, a widely adopted model state real property act designed to substantially enhance the ability of disadvantaged families to maintain ownership of their so-called heirs’ property. At this time, 18 states and the United States Virgin Islands have enacted the UPHPA into law, with California becoming the most recent state, and the UPHPA will be considered by several more states in the next few years. In 2021, the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) accepted another proposal Professor Mitchell developed to have the ULC draft a second model state real property act to address a different problem with tenancy-in-common/heirs’ property ownership. 

Professor Mitchell also has helped develop federal policy proposals, working with some in Congress and others in the United States Department of Agriculture, to help disadvantaged farmers and property owners. At this time, he is beginning to work with some municipalities with substantial populations of poor people of color on addressing so-called tangled title issues that have been sapping families in poor minority neighborhoods of their generational wealth, increasing violence in those neighborhoods, and hindering economic development. 

In 2020, he was named 1 of 21 recipients of the MacArthur Fellowship in recognition of the substantial impact his overall professional work has had in assisting disadvantaged farmers and property owners, farmers and owners who are disproportionately but not exclusively African American and other people of color. In 2021, he was awarded the Howard University Award for Distinguished Postgraduate Achievement, an award that Thurgood Marshall and Vice-President Kamala Harris, among many other Howard luminaries, also have received.

Professor Mitchell is a graduate of Amherst College, the Howard University School of Law, and the University of Wisconsin Law School where he received an LL.M. (masters of law) and served as a William H. Hastie Fellow.

Selectees join the 21st annual 50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology, BlackBio100 and Top 100 African Technologists for the annual scientific proceeding, Innovation&Equity21, on the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jan. 15, 2022 in San Francisco, part of the year-round activities of the Dr. T. Nathaniel Burbridge Center for Inclusive Innovation, named for the first tenured medical faculty in California and the president of the San Francisco NAACP during the United San Francisco Freedom Movement from 1963-65.

Innovation&Equity21: 50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology January 15, 2022

Innovation&Equity21: 50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology spotlights the Roy L. Clay Sr. Technology Pinnacle Award winners, Gen. C.Q. Brown, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force; and Shawnzia Thomas, Executive Director of the Georgia Technology Authority and State Chief Information Officer as we tackle Breaking the Billion Dollar Barrier. See the full list of the 50 Most Important in the special edition of the Journal of Black Innovation with upcoming issues to include the BlackBio100; the 50 Most Important African-Americans in Infrastructure and the Top 100 African Technologists. Your registration includes a membership in the august Dr. T. Nathaniel Burbridge Center for Inclusive Innovation and a yearly subscription to the Journal of Black Innovation.