A look back at Bears on the Texas Supreme Court
We initially left out one important word in our entry on Bears in Texas government last week. Baylor graduates Thomas Brown, James Alexander and Thomas R. Phillips should have been identified as past Texas Supreme Court CHIEF Justices; including those three, nearly 20 Bears have served on the Texas Supreme Court, a list that includes a Texas governor, a Baylor president, three Baylor Law deans, a Baylor Board member and a sitting justice.
We’ll start with the three Chief Justices. Brown, LLB 1856, was the first Baylor graduate to preside on the Texas Supreme Court. Alexander attended Baylor in 1901 and was one of the first professors in the newly re-established Baylor law department, serving from 1920 until he was elected Chief Justice in 1940. Phillips, BA ’71, is the third-longest tenured Chief Justice in Texas history, having served from 1988 to 2004, and has been credited with nominating Judge Ken Starr as Baylor’s 14th president.
The list of associate justices connected to Baylor goes all the way back to Judge R.E.B. Baylor, the namesake of the university, who was a member of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Texas from 1841-46. Another member of the extended Baylor family on the court was Royall Wheeler, Chief Justice from 1858-64 and the first head of Baylor Law School from 1857-60.
In the 20th century, the list continues with William Pierson, class of 1896 and an associate justice from 1923-35; he was followed by Few Brewster, Alfred Jennings Folley, BA ’21, LLB ’25, and Gordon Simpson, a trio that served on the same court in the 1940s. Next to join the court was Abner McCall, JD ’38, BA ’42, who was appointed during his tenure as Baylor Law dean in 1956 but did not seek re-election; instead, he was named president of Baylor five years later.
Price Daniel Sr., BA ’31, JD ’32, served as speaker of the Texas House, Texas attorney general, U.S. Senator and governor of Texas before spending eight years on the Texas Supreme Court (1971-78). The 1970s saw several Bears on the court: Thomas H. Phillips, JD ’37 (1972), Samuel D. Johnson Jr., BBA ’46 (1973-79), Robert Campbell, JD ’64 (1978-88), and Charles Barrow, LLB ’43 (1977-84). Barrow actually resigned from the bench to take the role of Baylor law dean in 1984.
Like Daniel, Jack Hightower, BA ’49, LLB ’51, capped off a long career (one that included stints in the Texas House, Texas Senate and U.S. House, as well as 10 years as a Baylor Trustee) by serving on the Texas Supreme Court (1988-96). Priscilla Owen, BA ’76, JD ’77, spent a decade on the Texas court (1995-2005) before joining the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in 2005. Another Bear, Don Willett, BBA ’88, was appointed to fill Owen’s seat on the Texas court in 2005 and was re-elected the following year for a term that runs through 2012.
Sic ’em, Bears on the Texas Supreme Court!
[We also heard from several Bears who wanted to let us know that they or someone they know are serving the people of Texas in state government, from Texas State Board of Education member Barbara Calhoun Cargill, BSED '82, to Railroad Commission of Texas Chairman Victor Carrillo, MS '88. If you know of a Bear with a story that would make the Baylor family proud, submit your point of pride here. If you're a Bear and want to share your accomplishments, send your class note to Baylor Magazine here and keep the rest of the Baylor family informed. Sic 'em!]