Mary Heftel Hooton Collection
Mary Reardon Heftel Hooton (July 5, 1919-January 1, 1993) worked as a lawyer and judge in Chicago for over forty years. As a lawyer she specialized in matrimonial law and was a committed advocate for children’s rights. As a state judge she served on the Juvenile Court, Housing Court, and as the supervising judge at the First Municipal Court. She was involved in the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (WBAI) for decades and served as its president from 1976-1977. In honor of her service, the WBAI bestows the Judge Mary Heftel Hooton Award to a lawyer or judge who has advanced the cause of women lawyers.
Born and raised in New York City she was briefly married to Thomas Hooton. In 1936 she moved to Chicago, attended DePaul University law school graduating in 1943, and went into private practice. In 1948 she married realtor William Heftel and shared an office with him first at 30 N. La Salle and later at 188 W. Randolph Street. Decades later, Heftel managed his wife’s successful 1976 campaign to the Illinois judgeship. She ran as an independent and bucked the Chicago Democratic political machine. As a new judge on the state Juvenile Court, Hooton immediately became embroiled in a dispute with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Hooton ordered children be removed from dangerous foster homes, defying the DCFS directives. During the fall of 1976 this conflict played out in the pages of the Chicago Tribune generating editorials and letters for and against Hooton. Hooton and her second husband raised nine foster children. At her death she willed her estate to the WBAI.