“At first, she thought it was a joke,” recalled Shari Shanafelt, who was then director of the Unit and believed Bigham had the passion and compassion needed to help people who had been directly affected by crime. “When I convinced her there was no punch line, she grilled me about the duties of a Victim Assistance Coordinator. Needless to say, she accepted the position.
“God knew what he was doing when he gave us Linda. Not only was she a fast learner, she was kind, compassionate, had common sense and was witty – capable of keeping her sense of humor and staying grounded even during the most tragic cases.”
For the past 25 years, Bigham has patiently guided hundreds of victims through the criminal justice process. She sits with them in court, explaining what is happening and why. She is their support, their shoulder.
On April 18, Bigham received the Liberty Bell Award from the Tarrant County Young Lawyers Association. The award, which was given during the Young Lawyers’ Spring Fiesta at Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth, recognizes an outstanding non-lawyer in Texas who has made the most selfless contribution to his or her community to strengthen the effectiveness of the American system of justice by instilling better understanding and appreciation of the law.
“I can’t quite believe that I truly won anything,” Bigham said modestly. “I find this a bit overwhelming. I have always felt that I was placed in this job for a reason – to serve people and minister to them in their time of great need.”
Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Erin Cofer, who is a director in the Young Lawyers Association, nominated Bigham for the award.
“When asked if I knew of anyone worthy of nomination for the Liberty Bell Award, I immediately thought of Linda,” Cofer said. “She provides our victims compassion and an understanding of the legal process that makes a true difference. Her smiling face is always there to give victims the support they need in times of crisis.”
Blanca Burciaga, who took over the helm of the Victim Assistance Unit in 2006 after Shanafelt retired, called Bigham a “rare, special gem.”
“She is wise, witty, compassionate, and can relate to people on a level that others cannot,” Burciaga said. “Linda was a member of the founding Victim Assistance Unit. They paved the way; they set the foundation for all of us who came later.
“When I was a young social worker, I had a supervisor tell me that we should always do our best because we never know the good we do. It’s unimaginable and incalculable the good that Linda has done for the victims that she has helped over her 25-year career. She always gives her best, and Tarrant County is a better place to have her as an advocate for victims of crime.”
- Melody McDonald, Public Information Officer