Gayest & Greatest 2021

Gayest & Greatest 2021: Legal, Financial, and Real Estate

Jeff Watters is a civil rights advocate.

Jeff Watters (courtesy photo)

Favorite Male Attorney

It’s always easy to identify people who are comfortable in their own humanity. They tend to be spontaneous, creative, intuitive, and are destined to make the world a better place.

Take Jeff Watters, for example. This year’s Favorite Male Attorney graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2005 with a dual major in business administration and political science. “The business degree was a concession to my parents,” Watters admits. “Law was in my heart, even as a child. I was always the kid on the playground who knew the rules of the game, and could negotiate the solution to a challenge.” 

Watters was a natural choice to be a “youth attorney” in his elementary school’s “court” for kids who had committed minor offenses. He argued fervently on behalf of his friends who were being disciplined. “It was enormously rewarding to help them arrive at reasonable outcomes. Ninety percent of the kids never re-offended!” he recalls.  

Watters received his law degree at Baylor University School of Law, where he graduated magna cum laude and also acted as executive editor of the Baylor Law Review. After a stint at the prestigious Baker Botts law firm, he is now an estate and probate litigator at Gray Reed & McGraw LLP. “Clients appreciate my ability to empathize during a highly emotional time in their lives. It’s never just about money for them. I focus on getting to the bottom of complex [family inheritance] issues and finding creative solutions that will achieve the end results my clients deserve. That is a very rewarding experience for me,” he concludes.

Watters’ has also had a serious impact on Houston’s LGBTQ community through his volunteer work. “Jeff is always willing to roll up his sleeves,” says Brad Pritchett, field director for Equality Texas, an LGBTQ political advocacy organization. “Through his involvement with the Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus, he has stepped up to help screen candidates who are asking for the support of our community.”

Last year, Watters was appointed co-chair of the leadership council at Lambda Legal Houston, a local chapter of the oldest and largest national organization in the country with the mission to advance the civil rights of LGBTQ people through high-impact litigation, education, and public-policy work. (It was Lambda Legal that won the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Lawrence v. Texas ruling that struck down the nation’s sodomy laws in 2003.)

“We are very grateful for Jeff’s leadership,” says Avery Belyeu, regional director for the South Central Office of Lambda Legal. “He brings a can-do attitude to everything he does. His commitment to civil rights and equality is hard to match, and we are very lucky to work alongside him in this fight.” 

For more on Lambda Legal, visit; for more on Equality Texas, visit


Best Bank

Amegy Bank 
Finalists: BB&T, Regions Bank, Wells Fargo

Best Credit Union

Houston Federal Credit Union
Finalist: People’s Trust Federal Credit Union

Best Male Accountant/Bookkeeper

Joseph Werle (Crunch Consulting)
Finalists: Gary Gritz, Brian Kapchinskie, Donald Simon

Best Female Attorney

Deborah Lawson (tie), Jessica Rodriguez-Wahlquist (tie)
Finalists: Joanne Ericksen, Lena Laurenzo, Dawn Renken

Best Male Attorney

Raed Gonzalez (tie), John Nechman (tie), Jeff Watters (tie)
Finalists: Mitchell Katine, Adam Miller

Best Female Financial Planner/Advisor

Grace Yung
Finalists: Berkely Arrents, Britt Kormann, Christyna Lewis, Lona McManus

Best Male Financial Planner/Advisor 

Richard Dickson
Finalists: Elias Contreras, Shane Theriot

Best LGBTQ Fund Manager

Doug Smith (Hawthorne Capital)




Best Male Real-Estate Agent

Brooks Ballard
Finalists: Bryan Cotton, Jeremy Fain, Thomas Phillips, Danny Pleaseon, Chris Schmidt, Colby Wulf

Best Female Real-Estate Agent

Karen Derr (tie), Debbie Levine (tie)
Finalists: Melissa Murray, LaToya Phillips, Shan Randle

Best Mortgage Company

AmCap Home Loans (Cari Middaugh)
Finalists: Amegy Mortgage, John Frels, Cody Grizzoffi

Best Title Company

Alamo Title Co. (Lyn Sullivan)
Finalists: Chicago Title Inner Loop, Texas American Title

Best Home Builder

Sabo Custom Builders
Finalists: Jose Ocque, Sandcastle Homes, ROC Homes, Loyd Russel Homes

Best Home Remodeling Company

Heels 2 Hammer
Finalists: Juancho Jimenez, Luria Construction, Odd Job Fence Co.

Favorite Rental Community

Durham Heights
Finalists: Elan Heights, Elan Memorial Park, Law Harrington Senior Living Center

For a full list of winners, go here.

This article appears in the October 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.


Kim Hogstrom

Kim Hogstrom is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.
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