Allen Levi is different.
How many people leave a profitable law career 10 years into it to focus on singing and songwriting?
How many singer-songwriters become politicians at age 58?
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Levi did when he was elected Harris County probate judge last month.
When he entered that race, his fear was not losing -- it was winning.
Saturday night, Levi will be at the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, singing and sharing stories on the Bill Heard Theatre stage in "Rivertown Christmas."
Between rehearsals and on-the-job-training in the probate judge's office, he recently sat down with Ledger-Enquirer reporter Chuck Williams to discuss his life, his journey, his family -- including the death of his brother, Gary -- and his vocation.
Here are excerpts of the interview, with some of the questions edited for length and the order of some of the questions rearranged for clarity.
After 18 years away from the practice of law, you got back in it a couple of weeks ago. What's that like?
Let me go back to how I got here. This would have never come across my radar, I don't think. I was very content with my job; I love my work as a musician. But some people approached me a few months ago when Judge (Martha) Hartley announced her retirement and asked me to consider running for this position and I politely, gratefully and emphatically told them that I was not interested.
But they persisted and I told them I would talk with the judge and I'd explore a little bit about the job to find out what's involved. And I did those things and found my heart being warmed toward the possibility.
I did not run for any political aspirations that I might have -- I have none. Never have and I don't think I ever will. I didn't need to build a career or a resume or anything because I did very much and do very much enjoy music as a vocation.
But as I starting finding out about what the job involved, I saw it as an opportunity to serve a community that I really, really love. And that's why I threw my name in the hat.
The actual transition though from my life as a musician to what I'm doing now has already proven to be pretty drastic. The geography of the workplace has changed a lot. My studio sits about three miles from here at the edge of a pasture. Now, I'm in a building with a low ceiling. That's a big change and it has taken a little bit of an adjustment for me so far. The wardrobe is different. The vocabulary is different.
You didn't wear a tie much the last 18 years, did you?
No. Honestly I'm having to resupply my wardrobe because work for me as a musician was typically very, very casual where people almost expected you to show up in blue jeans and a T-shirt.
How have you changed in the last 18 years?
I hope that I have become a wiser man. I don't know that any of us can be the judge of that in our own lives. I think I'm more attentive to what goes on around me. I know that I live life much more reflectively than I did as a younger man.
Part of that is because that was my job as a singer-songwriter. Writing songs only took place after I noticed something worth writing about, and I figured out early on as a singer-songwriter that my job was really to wake up and to notice life more deeply than I would have if I were not a singer-songwriter.
So, I think I'm a bit more reflective. I think I live at a slower speed largely because that's the nature of my work as a musician. Moving to Harris County 22 years ago had a lot to do with that.
You were raised in Columbus. You practiced in Columbus and then you moved to a farm in Harris County. Why did you do that?
I did grow up in Columbus. In 1990, I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, after 10 years of practice, and went to school there for two years. I think that started the gradual slow-down of my life.
The vortex of law practice for those 10 years was pretty extreme and demanding. It was very, very busy. When I moved to Edinburgh, my job was basically to read books -- a slow thing to do. I hiked a lot, I was not working, so I started to slow down when I was in Edinburgh.
When I came home from there I thought I would end up living in Columbus, but in the interim I thought I would stay at the farm for a little while and then either buy or build a house back in town and continue life as I used to know it some way. I was just working law practice part-time when I came back, which meant I could enjoy the farm.
Instead of working from early in the morning until after sunset in the evening, I was able to go to the office four or five hours a day, which meant I could enjoy mornings at the farm, I could enjoy afternoons at the farm. I got to where I really enjoyed doing outdoor things. I grew up the son of a forester, so I grew up outdoors a lot -- hunting, fishing, working around the property.
My dad bought this land in 1968. I started gardening, I keep honeybees, I love to walk, I love to learn the names of trees in the neighborhood -- birds. Love to watch birds, written a lot of songs about birds. I think the move to the country, again, has kind of pushed me to a mindset of being attentive and noticing things.
For most of my adult life I have not had a television, so there's not a lot of temptation to stay inside unless I'm reading or writing. So, I'm outdoors a lot and I live on 1,500 acres of land just east of town here. There's a lot of room to walk on and there's lots to see.
As you get back into a more structured job, do you miss the self-discipline that came with songwriting?
Actually, I think the discipline -- what discipline I have in my life now -- came from my years of law practice. Most of the work that I did was per-hour law practice, which meant that every six-minute increment of the day had monetary value to it. And my law partners made sure that their young associates were very keenly aware of each 6-minute increment. I learned that an hour really is a lot of time and you can do a lot in it.
So, when I moved into songwriting, I think I benefited a lot from law practice and was able to pursue songwriting in a way that I never would have had I started songwriting right out of college. And a lot of the young musicians that I see now suffer from a lack of discipline. They can sit and write a song for however long it takes, but the idea of sitting in a studio or really wrestling words to the mat over the course of a day, that's hard for them to do sometimes.
Gosh, for 10 years I sat at a desk and wrote and read and did those kind of things devotedly. So, from there to music, I brought that discipline to music and it's not going to be hard to plug in where I am now, because the same skill sets apply, I think.
You said your dad was a forester. Did your parents help instill that discipline in you at an early age?
They did very much. As a young boy I had paying jobs -- throwing newspapers, cutting grass. At the farm we worked a lot, always had chores as a kid. Even when we were in Columbus we called them chores. My mom and dad instilled in me, my brother and my three sisters a very keen work ethic, which I'm very grateful for.
I read something recently by an author who I have come to appreciate greatly, Wendell Berry. And he espouses a notion of work that is something to be enjoyed. He said typically in our culture we live for weekends, holidays and retirement. Which means that the vast majority of our lives are spent in drudgery if we don't have a healthy view of work. And my mom and dad taught me as a kid, I think, to appreciate work and to see it not as a curse -- even though it can be difficult at times -- but as a blessing.
A lot of people don't realize that singing-song writing is a very difficult job.
It is extremely difficult. And you're right, people don't appreciate it.
Talk about that period of your life, the last 18 years.
I read just this morning that last year in the United States there were 75,000 CDs that were produced, most of them independently. The average CD last year sold 13 copies. The songwriting, the singing and the performing part of music I think comes pretty naturally to people who have that talent. But with it comes the whole aspect of having -- I don't like the word particularly -- but marketing what you do and connecting with the people however few or many there might be who like what you do.
So, you've got to come up with the song idea, write the song, record the song, learn how to perform the song, write the monologue before the song -- if that's the kind of music that you do. And then you've got to figure out how do I get these songs to these people who like the music that I do. And for people who are intentionally creative the marketing can then just be a nightmare.
It's very hard to make a living as a musician. Travel is difficult, especially for someone like myself who was doing it all for most of my career -- writing, recording, producing, marketing, booking the gigs, doing the travel.
You spent a lot of time in the Atlanta airport, didn't you?
Lots, lots of time, and that has become wearisome over the years, honestly. I tell people frequently that I sing for free. I get paid to be homesick one night at a time. But travel is challenging. Lately, I've been trying to book events that I can drive to so I can be home in the morning, play the event, and come back the same night. But the Atlanta airport has been my second home. A few years ago though, a friend of mine called me. His father had just passed away. He strongly encouraged me to spend time with my dad. He knows that I love and respect my dad greatly. So, I called my sister who does all of my management for me now in the music end of my life. I said our goal for the next year is to cut my income in half and to let me be home twice as much. So, that slowed my life down considerably in terms of travel. For the last five or six years my travel has tapered off, and when my brother got sick, particularly, it slowed down a lot. But singing and songwriting, for the glory that it is, it's work. And there are days you don't feel like singing or songwriting. There are times you have to play a gig and you really don't feel like doing it. But having said that, it's wonderful work.
You were talking about your family. Your family is very close. Are both of your parents still living?
They are. A.C. and Hilda Levi.
Y'all lost Gary, what, two years ago?
A little over two years ago.
You and Gary were extremely close, weren't you?
Older brother or younger brother?
I'm 13 months older than Gary.
When did he get sick?
Early 2011. Gary starting having some headaches and becoming extremely forgetful. He was a specimen of good health, but in June they diagnosed him with brain cancer, and he lived exactly 365 days after that. So, we had a good year with him.
For someone who naturally as a singer-songwriter looks at the world and looks at stories of the world, what was that year like with your brother?
It was the best year of my life largely because my brother was absolutely a lovable person and a loving person. He was and in some ways is still my best friend. He was my hero, my mentor -- we were going to grow old together. So, when I say it was a wonderful year, don't misunderstand me to say it wasn't a painful year also -- it was.
As Ron Anderson said in his interview a couple of weeks ago, there was a great clarity that came to that season of life for me. Up to that point, like most of us, I was on a typical day going in a hundred directions. But when Gary got sick, I called my sister and I said cancel everything that I've got until either he gets well or he passes away. And for those 365 days there was only one thing every single day that mattered to me and that was how can I love my brother.
So, I spent 24 hours a day in his presence, almost with no exception. It was wonderful because Gary was such a wonderful soul. It was that way because of my friends and the people who loved Gary and our family. And also because the hope of the Gospel became real to me in a way that it never had quite been before.
In what way?
People have asked me sometimes did I learn anything through that experience. I don't know if I learned anything new from Gary's passing, but the things I already knew became real to me. The hope of the Gospel -- the fact that life is just not in this world, it's not just the here and now.
That became very real to me. The fact that joy can coexist with deep, deep, deep grief became real to me. I've read that in the Book. The fact that my brother can now be physically absent from me but I can live with the sense of his presence, that became real to me. That's the hope of the Gospel. My brother lived with a keen sense of his mortality. He used to sign his letters sometimes "Perhaps today," as a reminder to me that we never know when life here ends.
I think he lived -- as C.S. Lewis once said -- with the belief that "one day the door that we have been knocking on all of our lives will open at last." So, the fact of mortality, but the hope of living beyond that, became real to me. I had known that for a long time as a Christian, but that year being with Gary, that became very alive and real to me.
Definitely sobering, but not sobering in a way that wasn't also very glad. Sobering, yes, in making me want to live my life better than I have lived in the past, to try to live with less regret, try to live focused on things that really, really matter, and to maintain that sense of clarity that sometimes death introduces to us whether we want it or not.
You were talking about your faith and your spiritual life. You go to Longstreet Church here in Hamilton. How did you find this as your church home?
Years ago, I did a musical version of what Chuck Williams is doing now with these interviews. I wanted to write songs about people in my hometown, which is now Hamilton. In some sense I feel like I have dual citizenship with Hamilton and Columbus. I thought, I'm going to write some songs about my hometown because people ask me a lot about it when I travel.
And this was my idea: I am going to find seven people who live within 5 miles of my front porch and I'm going to interview them and I'm going to write a song about each one of them. Some of them I knew a little bit, some of them I knew rather well, some of them I did not know at all.
But I asked them if I could have a conversation, and I did. Then I wrote a song about them, all of them. When I suggested I was going to write a song about them, some said, "There is nothing about my life you could write a song about."
... One of those seven people was Benjamin Floyd. Benjamin Floyd was an elderly African-American gentlemen. I had known him for a while; used to stay up nights cooking barbecue with him. He lived 2 miles east of my porch. So, I spent a New Year's Eve recording a conversation with him, and in the course of the conversation, he quoted the Bible a lot.
He was in his 80s at the time. But he also shared with me that he could not read, so at the end of our interview I asked him, "How do you know the Bible so well if you can't read?" He said, "Since 1943, I've been going to Longstreet Church."
I said, "Where is it?" He said, "It's right around the corner on 208." It's a building I had driven by thousands of times and didn't even know that it was a functioning gathering place. And I said, "Could I come visit y'all sometime?"
And he said, "The doors of our church are built on welcome hinges, whosoever shall may come, you come any time you want." So, a couple of weeks later I went. That's been five years ago and I've been attending every since, and I don't know if I've enjoyed a church experience more.
It's an African-American congregation. My first pastor was Wilford Brownlee and a younger pastor, Kelrone Trice, is the pastor now. It has given me a glimpse into the community I don't think I would have had any other way. And my favorite part is sitting with the elderly members and asking them to tell me stories about growing up in Harris County.
What was the name of the song you wrote about Mr. Floyd?
I think it's called "This is life," but I can't quite remember. I'm trying to remember a verse. It was a song about gratitude, because one thing I learned from Deacon Floyd was to attend to small details. He would talk about how his bean vines would grow and how the vines turned in the same direction.
He would point out the songbirds to me, but he talked about being grateful. I asked him what was it like to grow up African-American in Harris County during the '40s and '50s and he would not talk about it. But I said, "How do you get over the difficulty of living through those years and not be bitter?"
And I wrote a verse about that. I think it said: "He grew up black in a white man's world,/ Forgiveness is his well of joy,/ He treats me like I'm one of his,/ I'm just his little white-skinned boy."
What is it in your makeup that can allow you to go into places that others might be uncomfortable?
I hope this doesn't sound like a cliche, but it's the love of Christ. From Jesus I learned to love everybody and I can learn from everybody. I don't know that I've met a person anywhere or any time that I couldn't learn from them.
And knowing how greatly I'm forgiven and how flawed I am, I think allows me to walk into any gathering and say, "These are people just like me," and to go with a willingness to learn, a gladness to love, and a thankfulness that I get to share the world with them -- I guess is how I navigate different places. I will say, too, though, in a mercenary way, that's where songs come from.
It's hard to get good stories in your comfort zone.
That's right, well said. My two favorite questions are: What is your name? And tell me your story? One thing I learned from doing the CD which is called "People in my Town," is that people want to be heard. And to just ask a question with a willingness to listen, and I really want to hear their story. I don't ask it because I'm trying to fish for a song, I really want to hear their story whether there's a song or not.
But invariably, there is some little detail in their life that just takes my breath away. That can be a little teeny kid, it can be people in the nursing home. And I will say this too, that life in a small town, if one is not constantly reaching out to know his or her neighbors, can be a pretty boring thing. People ask me a lot when I travel: "Don't you get lonely living on a big piece of property by yourself? You're a never-married man with no children, and don't you get bored?"
And I typically say to the first question: "Everybody is lonely." The Book tells me that when we got put out of the Garden -- believe about what you want to believe about -- everybody has been lonely ever since. But I don't think I'm any lonelier than my happily married friends. So yes, I call it homesickness and I've got some of that.
But to the question "Do you get bored?" -- I tell them I don't have any idea what that feels like. I live in the most amazing place and it's largely because of the people. So, every morning I go to the high school at 7:15 -- I've been doing it for probably a decade now -- with the blessing of the administration.
What do you do there?
I hold the back door open and I say hello to a thousand kids each morning and I probably know 200-400 of those by names. So, I can hug those and tell them that I love them. And every one of those kids I know has a story that I would love to hear. Some of them I have had the chance to hear, some not. Thursday mornings I go to the elementary school to read to the second graders. I've been doing that 10-15 years now.
Now I'm coming to the courthouse to a world of lawyers, judges, clerks and government officials. And every day you have people taking care of their business -- and for this particular court, vulnerable people who need someone to help them take care of their business. I was drawn to this particular office. I don't think there's another one in the building that I would have tossed my name in the hat for. But, this is a place that helps vulnerable people.
Probate means somebody has died. If somebody dies without a will, they need an estate administrator. Two years ago, I had to come here to probate my brother's will, and I was served very compassionately and professionally by the judge then, Martha Hartley.
Already in the first two weeks, there have been a dozen people come in to probate or administer estates. People come here to have guardianship carried out by the court. Those are vulnerable situations a lot of times. This court handles involuntary committals when people are a threat or a harm to themselves or their families.
For the past 18 years, you've been writing stories and singing songs. The people walking into this office to probate a will or to have a relative committed who can't take care of themselves, they've all got a story, right?
... Yes, this is a place that will abound with stories with every case. It was the same way with law practice. Interestingly, people ask me sometimes: You've gone from law to music and now you're going back to law; those seem like drastic departures vocationally. And in some sense that's true, but as a lawyer, when I did that work, my tools were words. My job was to tell stories; that's what litigation is.
And to the people who know you, you were a competent litigator who did a lot of civil defense work, right?
I hope I was competent, but I did a lot of civil defense work. And on those occasions, Chuck, it was telling a story. That's what advocacy was about -- telling a story. And my goal was to persuade people that there was a version of a particular incident that was the most credible. As a songwriter, my tool is still words. For the sort of music that I write, I tell stories, and my goal is still to persuade people. So, I'm moving out of that realm back into law, but my tools and my job and my tasks will actually be the same.
What's the most powerful song you ever wrote?
Let me prefix that by saying that I have written thousands of songs. I don't know if I could pinpoint a song, but maybe I can answer this way: There are lots of times that I have played for very small groups, and when I say very small, sometimes one or two. I have been asked on a number of occasions, will you come to a hospital room and sing a song for someone who is very sick or dying? I can't remember what I would have sung on those occasions, but whatever song I sung to that soul at that moment was the most important song I ever wrote.
I played a concert one night in Montgomery and there was a young couple there and they said, "We wanted to bring our child to the concert because she listens to your lullaby CD every night. She's 5 years old now, and every night she has listened to your CD since the day she was born, but we didn't think she could sit through a concert so we didn't bring her."
And I said: "It'll take me just a few minutes to break down, but where do you live?" And they told me where they live and I said I would be there shortly. We went to their house and this little girl was asleep in her bed and I pulled a chair up next to her bed, I got my guitar and started to play, and she woke up. I don't know what I sang, but that was the most important song I ever wrote.
And that's the glory of this work is realizing these little points of intersection of living souls where I can share whatever song that might bring gladness, provoke thought or bring healing or comfort somebody. At that moment, that's the most important song that I ever wrote.
Your worlds are colliding a little bit right now because you are in rehearsals for "Rivertown Christmas" while you're learning a new job. How is that going?
The job here is drinking from a fire hose. There is so much to learn. Thankfully, I have a wonderful staff. Nancy (Stewart), Amy (Scarberry) and Teresa (Testin) are helping me navigate these first few days and weeks. The concert is very big because I'm still writing it. For me, writing doesn't just mean the music part, but the part between songs, the narrative to keep a flow going between the course of the concert.
So, it's two big ideas in my head at the same time, and my brain isn't very good with more than one at a time -- barely with one at a time. That said, last Thursday we had a long rehearsal in the evening.
Down in Columbus at RiverCenter?
We did it up here. Just myself, my piano player, Dewayne Creswell, and another player named Justin Belew. And after being here for six, eight, 10 days, never quite being confident with what I'm doing, it was refreshing to sit down with my guitar and let muscle memory take over and do something that I felt like I know how to do comfortably. Yeah, my plate is very full and somewhat uncomfortably so right now.
Are you looking forward to "Rivertown Christmas?"
I'm so looking forward to it. There's an aspect to working in Columbus that makes work just more nerve wracking on one level, because -- I played in San Antonio a few weeks ago -- if I had a bad night there, I will never see those people again.
But there's a good chance if I have a bad night here I'm going to bump into someone at the grocery store. So, there's an intensity to the work here that doesn't exist anywhere else. But the good side of that is that I know I'm going to be in a room full of people that I adore, and usually that feels reciprocated.
I also happened to love the songs that we're going to do that night. These are some of my favorite songs.
Are they Christmas songs?
Yeah, they're Christmas songs of a somewhat different strike. But they come from moments. They just come from seeing things at Christmastime. Some of it is imaginary, some of it is real life. There will be humor. There will be, I hope, some reflection that the songs provoke. But it's going to be a wonderful song set.
What is it like to be on a stage like the RiverCenter and look out and almost every seat has a face that you recognize?
It's glorious -- it's glorious. Whenever I play on the road, I have made it a practice over the years to look for one face that I call the "yes face." At any point of the evening I know I can look to that person and he or she is kind of going to give me a thumbs up. I'm going to feel good about this. The great thing about being in Columbus, especially given that I have lived here for so long, is it's going to be a room full of "yes faces." And to the extent that I can, I will try to imagine, even while I'm on that glorious stage, that I'm sitting on my front porch or in my den and these are my friends and we're just spending an evening together.
Has your writing voice changed as you've gotten older?
I think if there were a theme to the way that I write, the theme would be "Pay attention." Ten years ago, I came under the spell of Wendell Berry, this Kentucky farmer who is a writer. He tells the story of this old man on his piece of acreage -- he's lived on this acreage 80 plus years.
The book is about the last day of this man's life. He is walking through the forest and he gets lost. He knows this forest better than he knows the back of his hand. From a little boy to this advanced age he's been on this same property. And while he's standing there lost in his forest, he looks around and he says, "If I were to stay in this one place for 80 years, I could not see everything that is around me.
As I have gotten older as a writer, I think I'm realizing I don't have to write about big ideas. I can write about very small things and the big idea is in there somewhere. And the big idea for me is "Live where you live, live locally, know your neighbor's name, know the neighborhood, know the landscape that's right under your feet. And all of that has kind of contributed I think to a way of writing now that just encourages people. Pay attention to what is around you because what is around you is enough, it's rich. We can live only where we live.
That runs counter to the way people run their lives and the way a lot of people think, right?
We are encouraged, I think, to live in a world of big ideas, and especially when we have a big problem, we think big solution. This is another Wendell Berry sort of idea: I really can't love Africa, but there's a little boy there named Emmanuel that I sponsor through a ministry. I can love Emmanuel.
I can't really save the planet, but I can pick up the trash in my front yard and on the road that leads up to the farm. The way that we do the global things is by living where we live and by being present to where we are. And I think sometimes in the quest to conquer these big causes, we step right over the opportunity to really address the cause that's right under our feet.
As small as it is to go up to the high school and say good morning to those children, in my thinking, that's as valuable as a peace treaty between nations because it lends itself to brotherhood and to kindliness and to affection.
There's a line of poetry by Wordsworth: "The best portion of a good man's life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love." Which is another way of Jesus saying, "Love your neighbor as yourself." As a songwriter, as a member of the community, as a living soul, I think over the course of the last couple of decades, especially after my brother's passing, I have really bought into the idea that I need to be present right where I am and pay attention to and notice the things that are around me.
You've made some really big life decisions: leaving a law practice to go write songs and sing songs and travel, back into law as an elected official and running a campaign. A lot of people shy away from these life-altering decisions. How do you have the mindset to make these decisions?
I wish I could take credit for it. Again, this most recent change was one that was inspired by friends.
But you still had to jump, right?
You're right. You are exactly right. If I might talk about that decision just a bit. The thing that kept me from wanting to run initially was fear -- fear of change, fear of having to learn things I don't know, fear of not measuring up, fear of not having the competence to do the job. And at the ripe old age of 58 -- I am convinced in my own life and pretty confident about the lives of most people around me -- that fear is the strongest motivator that we have, usually in a bad way because it keeps us from doing things that are good.
Some people would call it an obstacle.
It is an obstacle. It's a crippling obstacle. It's a wall. A prison is what fear can be for many. It's been that way for me. This time, even after I qualified to run, I was still very afraid, but I trusted the judgment of people whose wisdom I know to be greater than my own.
Were you afraid of losing or afraid of winning?
Afraid of winning, because I knew if I lose, I've got a great job, I've got a great life, I know how to do what I've been doing, but I'm on a very steep learning curve right now. But I tell you what I did, Chuck. After I found out a little bit about the job, I thought, OK, this is a chance to serve. There were four people I wanted to talk to -- most importantly, my mother and father, they are my neighbors, they are my best friends, I know they love me, and I know they are wise, and they know the season of life that I'm in now.
We all went through Gary's passing together. And then my sister, who works for me, who also knows my life's circumstances, and her husband. I wanted them to speak into my life and say do it, don't do it, maybe, maybe not. They were all emphatically encouraging that I should do it. And when I came up here to qualify, it was on the strength of their recommendation a lot more than my desire at that point, because I was afraid.
So, when you talk about these changes of careers and such over the years, there is always a hurdle of fear that I have to get over. And I think most of us are like that. There is a passage that I cling to dearly where I am told that "perfect love casts out fear." I don't think God will lead me somewhere or give me skill sets that I can use to help people that his love won't overcome; he'll overcome the fear for me somehow.
So, I come to this job and I say, "OK, I don't know what I'm doing yet in some particulars, but I think I'm here because I'm supposed to be here and love will make a way for me to do it well."
You talk to those kids in Harris County every morning. What's the most important piece of advice you could give them right now?
There was a lawyer who asked Jesus a question one time in a day when there were thousands of laws. The lawyer said, "What is the greatest law, what is the greatest commandment?" And Jesus said, "Love God with heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself." I cannot always say that.
Some would say that I'm never supposed to say that on those premises. And believe me, I am very vigilant and respectful of the laws that prevail in a public space like that, but what I would say to them or to any person of any age, anywhere, is love God and love your neighbor as yourself and life will be a rich and beautiful thing.
Name: Allen Levi
Job: Probate judge, Harris County, and a singer/songwriter.
Education: Hardaway High School, 1974; University of Georgia, B.A., English, 1978; University of Georgia School of Law, J.D., 1980; University of Edinburough, master's in English literature, 1992.
Family: Parents, A.C. and Hilda; sisters Beth Leikvold, Linda Bizilia and Laura Ballengee.