Dallas Morning News, 10 Feb 1899
The Late Judge R. J. Smith
<>Notes of Biography - A Self Made Man>
R. J. Smith was born in Logan County, Ky., Dec. 23, 1819.
His father was a descendant of one of the best families of Va. At
one time a well-to-do Ky. planter, heavy security debts crippled him
financially. At his death the support of the family fell upon his
R. J. Smith was the oldest of six children. He was left an
orphan at the tender age of thirteen years. Had attended the
primitive country schools some during the winter months, but
possessed no education to speak of. Had to devote his energies
towards the support of his mother and five brothers and sisters.
He began as printer's devil and by faithful discharge of duty and
the manifestation of a high degree of intelligence won the esteem of
his employers, and promotions followed rapidly. As his business
experience widened he keenly felt the need of an education, but could
not relinquish work to attend school. He attended night school and
thus gained a foundation upon which to build, by his own untiring
study. At the early age of seventeen he was editor of his own
paper, The Russellville Herald. Although successful in this
undertaking he was not satisfied. The dearest wish of his heart was
to become a lawyer.
Already a hard student, to carry out the promptings of ambition,
his mental labors were pursued with redoubled ardor. As he
progressed in the knowledge of law, he gained the impression that a
successful lawyer must not only know that principles of
jurisprudence, but must know something of everything.
Then began a course of varied reading. (Nearly all at
night...[missing text]... hours.) Fiction, poetry, art, science,
history, both modern and ancient, mythology -- everything available
was mustered to satisfy his insatiable love of learning. His efforts
were singularly successful. Notwithstanding all the difficulties
that fixed his early career he steadily advanced, financially and
His family was kept in comfort and his young brothers and sisters
were given educational advantages such as he never possessed. At the
age of twenty six he was united in marriage with Miss Caroline
Beauchamp, with whom he lived until his death. Some two years
after he gained admittance to the bar, and for many years was one of
the ablest and most successful lawyers of his time. After the war
between the States, he felt the changes in his old home keenly and
finally decided to come to Texas.
In the winter of 1870 he removed with his family to Bryan, Texas.
For a number of years he and his sons published the old "Bryan
Appeal." His editorials in that paper and others elicited the
admiration of learned men all over the State. Some years after that
he was associated with his son Richard Smith in running "The
For several years before his removal to Burnet, he was city
Secretary and Recorder, a position he could have held as long as he
chose to accept. He was a man of the highest sense of honor. All
his dealings with men were marked with truth and candor. He had
strong convictions of right and wrong, and unhesitatingly fought for
any cause he deemed just, at whatever cost. He was over a friend to
education. No step in this direction ever failed to gain his
support. Bryan owes her fine graded school to his untiring efforts.
The dearest wish of his heart, for the last three years, was to build
up a nine months free school in Burnet.
His love of home, devotion to his family, his strict integrity and
purity of life, are lasting monuments to his memory in the hearts of
those who knew him best.