Delma Dale Haralson

BBA 1959, HSU Trustee

Delma Dale Haralson was born August 7, 1937, to Delmar and Adah (Barber) Haralson in Colorado City, Texas. He grew up on a farm 10 miles north of Loraine, Texas, with older brother, Hal, and younger brother, Kenneth. Family life was built around the First Baptist Church, and the boys worked the 400-acre family farm with their father.

After graduating from Loraine High School in 1955, Haralson enrolled at Hardin-Simmons University where his mother had been a 1928 graduate. Active at HSU, he served on Student Council, was president of the Colt Club and the Rifle Team, vice president and president Pi Kappa Delta, was on the Men’s Debate Team and the New Men’s Dorm Council. He played trombone in the Cowboy Band, traveling with the band on the 1958 USO tour.

Haralson received an ROTC commission as a U.S. Army 2nd Lieutenant when he graduated in 1959 from HSU with a B.B.A. degree in business and a minor in economics.

Following graduation, he reported for active duty, completed the basic officer’s course, and then went into the Active Reserve. Completing seven years of service with the Arizona National Guard, he rose to the rank of captain, and in 1966 as a company commander was named Outstanding Officer in the Arizona National Guard.

Haralson enrolled at the University of Texas Law School after completing active duty in 1959, then later transferred to the University of Arizona, where he completed his juris doctorate in 1963. He worked a variety of jobs to put himself through law school, which included working cattle for his uncle, Bob Barber, who was an Arizona attorney and rancher. He also worked in a car wash, a clothing store, and a gas station. Upon being admitted to the Arizona State Bar in 1963, he went into practice in his uncle’s law office.

In 1965, he married Betty Hackney, a native Arizonan. They welcomed daughters Kristi in 1970 and Wendy in 1972. A licensed pilot, he and his family have enjoyed flying, scuba diving, and skiing. In 1995, he and Betty were baptized in the Jordan River during a trip to the Holy Land.

Haralson made the choice to become a plaintiff’s trial attorney based on a calling he felt as a sophomore in high school. He knew God wanted him to be a Christian lawyer who represented people who needed help.

In 1970, the case that jump-started Haralson’s career was against GE Corporation for the defective design of an in-home water heater that had caused electrical burns over 35% of the plaintiff’s body while she was taking a shower. The jury returned the highest award that had ever been given for any kind of injury or death in the state of Arizona.

Later cases included the largest death award in the country at the time, in a 1973 case against Southern Pacific Railroad for the family of a man who was killed at a railroad crossing in a rural community. Then in 1984, he took on the U. S. government, and won. A $2.6 million award was set in federal court in a landmark case that rules the U. S. government was responsible for the cancer deaths of 10 people who lived near open-air nuclear bomb tests in the 1950s and 1960s.

Haralson has served numerous associations and boards, including as president of the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association and as a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice Board of Governors, and the Civil Justice Foundation Board of Trustees. He has been on the Board of Governors of the Western Trial Lawyers Association since 1976, serving as president, vice president, secretary, and parliamentarian.

He served on the University of Arizona Arthritis Advisory Board, was a member of the Tucson General Hospital Trustees, and continues to be active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as trustee emeritus of their national board.

Active in the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Haralson was a seminar speaker for the group and was vice president in 1981. While serving as vice president and unopposed for the position of president elect, Haralson was diagnosed with throat cancer. After chemotherapy, two surgeries, and radiation treatment, he chose not to run for further office in the association. His doctors had given him a less than five percent chance of survival. He attributes his recovery to the loving care from Betty, the prayers of many friends from HSU and their local churches, and the healing power of God.

Haralson’s determination and hard work brought him through the personal devastation of cancer, while he continued to fight for the rights of those injured by big corporations. He has received numerous awards and honors, and in 2010, was recognized by the Arizona Association for Justice with the Lifetime Advocate of Civil Justice Award for his 47 years of outstanding advocacy of the civil justice system.

He is on the board of elders of Canyon del Oro Baptist Church where he and Betty are members. His daughters have blessed him with five granddaughters (one of whom is a current student at HSU), and Dale admits he is happily ruled by the women in his life.