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Judge R. J. Smith

1819 - 1899

Source:  Dallas Morning News, 10 Feb 1899
Burnet Bulletin, 23 Feb 1899
transcribed by JoAnn Myers, May 2004


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 son, Richard.

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 socially.

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 Brazos Pilot."

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.

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