Judges of Navarro County, Texas


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Researched by W. P. Murchison,
Originally published in "The Navarro County Scroll", Vol. XX, 1975
Reprinted with permission of the Navarro County Historical Society
Note: Modification made to original article to include updated and additional information.


In the creation and development of Navarro County, the judges who presided over its courts played a most important role by establishing law and order, in determining land titles and property rights, and, to a large extent, in molding the overall character and democratic thinking of our people.  Not that their job was easy; rather, it was most difficult.  The rougher element did not want the judges at all.  Texas laws were new, and there was little precedent for many of their decisions.  The first judges were not too well educated but made up for it by using good common sense and strong character.  Because of the tremendous volume of work they did, it would be impractical to try to review the multitude of cases they handled, but it should be of interest to know who they were and a little personal information about each.  This article will furnish available information on the county judges, then the district judges, and finally give a brief description of the courthouses Navarro County has had.

THE COUNTY JUDGES

The county judge handles probate, lunacy matters, and lesser civil and criminal cases and, as an administrator, presides over the county commissioners court which makes him, all-in-all, a very busy man.  The original county judges held the title of "Chief Justice."  During the Federal rule of the Reconstruction period each was a precinct justice-of-the-peace and bore the title of "Presiding Justice", having been selected by the other four justices-of-the-peace."  When the Constitution of 1876 was adopted he became the County Judge, the title which we now know.  Navarro County was created by an act of the First Legislature of Texas April 25, 1846, and the first election was held at Dresden July 13, 1846.


DR. JOHN A. YOUNG
Dr. John A. Young was elected chief justice but died before he could take office.  To fill the vacancy, the Governor appointed:

GENERAL E. H. TARRANT,
An old Texas Ranger who lived in Forreston, also called "Freeze-out", in what is now Ellis County but was at that time part of Navarro County.  So actually General Tarrant was the first county judge of Navarro County, serving from 1846 to 1848.  He was born in North Carolina in 1796, fought in the battle of New Orleans, coming to Texas in 1835.  He served in the Texas army, then became commanding officer of the Texas Rangers in the Northwest Texas Frontier.  In 1838 he represented Red River County in the Texas Congress but resigned to go back to the Rangers and fight the Indians.  In the Battle of Village Creek, east of present Fort Worth, he broke the Indians' power, in recognition of which Tarrant County was named for him.  He became a lawyer, served several times in the Texas Legislature, then became the first chief justice of Navarro County.   When the county seat was moved from Forreston to Corsicana, he opposed the change and was instrumental in getting Ellis County organized and separated from Navarro County.   The present Eighth Avenue in Corsicana was originally named Tarrant Street.  A restless old timer, he got married in 1851 and moved on to Fort Belknap in Young County, where he died Aug. 2, 1858.  He was reburied in Italy, Ellis County, and in 1928 his body was moved to Fort Worth, where a state marker has been placed over his grave.


STERLING C. CROSS, CHIEF JUSTICE   Aug. 1, 1848 - Aug. 1, 1852 and Aug. 1, 1854 - Aug. 1, 1856
Under his administration the first courthouse in Navarro County was built and Corsicana was established as county seat.   The first county roads were cut.  His pay as Chief Justice was $1.50 per day for days worked.  Holding the office for four years, he lost the election in 1852 but won it back in 1854, serving two more years.


PRESLEY DONALDSON, CHIEF JUSTICE Aug. 1, 1852 - Aug. 1, 1854 and Aug. 1, 1856 - Aug. 1, 1858
Judge Donaldson started the second courthouse, which was completed September 2, 1854, about a month after he lost office to Judge Cross.  But he won the office back in 1856 and held it until August, 1858.


CAPTAIN JAMES R. LOUGHRIDGE, CHIEF JUSTICE Aug. 1, 1858 - July 1861
Born in South Carolina in 1821, he came to Corsicana as a lawyer soon after the town was organized.  At a special term of court, April 27, 1861, $2,500.00 was voted for arms and ammunition to defend the Southern Confederacy.  I. T. Spence was sent to New Orleans to get it.  Money to pay for it was borrowed from the School Fund. (Page 115 Commissioners Court Minutes.)  Judge Loughridge resigned in July to go with the Navarro Rifles to Virginia.  He came out of the war as a captain.   Later he served in the committee that got the H. & T. C. Railroad to come through Corsicana.  He died in 1886 and has has a common headstone with his wife in the Oakwood Cemetery, Corsicana, Texas (Section S, Row 1)  The marker indicates is wife is buried in that plot but that James is buried near Rural Shade.  His descendents live in Athens, Henderson Co., TX.

Notes:


SAMUEL HARRIS KERR, CHIEF JUSTICE, Aug. 1, 1861 - Aug. 1, 1865
Born in Maury County, Tennessee Dec. 24, 1823, he married Catherine Delia Smith in 1846, came to Corsicana in November 1852.  After teaching school, he went in the wagon and buggy business where Navarro Savings and Loan Assn. is now located.   Besides being County Judge, he also served terms as County Clerk and, later, District Clerk.  He was a Cumberland Presbyterian and a Mason, had eight children, among whom were Mrs. Abe (Louisa) Mulkey, Mrs. John W. Duren, F. S. Kerr, and Cal E. Kerr.   He is remembered principally for providing county funds for families of Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.


From the Collection of  Edward L. Williams

Notes:


SAMUEL WRIGHT, CHIEF JUSTICE,  Aug. 1, 1865 - Aug. 1, 1866
Born Oct. 27, 1816, he lived at Spring Hill before becoming judge.  A Confederate soldier, he served as a captain in the 19th Regiment Texas Cavalry, was ousted as judge by union troops for being an obstacle to reconstruction.  He died Nov. 1, 1887 and is buried at Liberty Hill Cemetery, Navarro Co., TX.


JOHN L. MILLER, CHIEF JUSTICE, ALSO COUNTY JUDGE, THEN PRESIDING JUSTICE, From Aug. 1, 1866 to June 1872
 

See John L. Miller Biography Page


JAMES COCHRAN KEY, PRESIDING JUSTICE, July 1, 1872 - Nov. 26, 1873
Judge Key was born September 26, 1817 in Georgia.  With his wife, Lelia, he came to Texas in 1854 and settled at Navarro Mills.  He resigned Nov. 26, 1873 but retained his job as Justice-of-the-Peace, Beat 5 but lost this in the December election (Corsicana Observer)  A daughter married E. O. Call, an outstanding lawyer who was instrumental in organizing the Texas Company.  Judge Key died March 13, 1910 and is buried in the Dresden Cemetery.

Notes


WILLIAM ROY BRIGHT, PRESIDING JUSTICE, April 1874 - December 31, 1875
The Corsicana Observer verifies Commissioner Court Minutes that the County was without a judge for about four months.  Elected Justice-of-the-Peace, Beat 1, he was sworn in in April, 1874.  A lawyer from Kentucky, he was born Dec. 1, 1841, coming to Corsicana after the Civil War.  Elected judge Dec. 2, 1873, he went to Galveston and married his wife, Helen, whom he brought back to Corsicana, living at 103 N. 12th Street.   In 1890 he was president of the City National Bank, was active in civic affairs.   He died December 24, 1895 leaving three children, William, Thomas Matthew, and Mrs. Mae Fox.  Mrs. Bright died in December 1933.


THOMAS J. HAYNES, PRESIDING JUSTICE, Jan. - Apr. 1876
Thomas J. Haynes was born July 22, 1824.  He Served only a short time as County Judge, he was a justice-of-the-peace and had substituted as County Judge several times.  A very prominent man, he was one of the original settlers of Corsicana.  He built the second courthouse in 1853 and when it burned in 1855, he rented his carpenter shop to the court for fifty cents a day.  He was a partner in building the third courthouse.  He organized and was a captain of the second Corsicana company of soldiers going into the Confederate service.  After the war he operated a hotel.  He was the first elected mayor of Corsicana, serving from 1872 to 1875.  Retiring as mayor he was elected justice-of-the-peace and served as presiding justice until Judge Frost took office in April 1876.  Judge Haynes died Sept 25, 1877 and is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery, Corsicana, Texas (Section K, Row 6).

See Also:


SAMUEL ROMULUS FROST, COUNTY JUDGE, April 19, 1876 - Dec. 31, 1878
Judge Frost was the first county judge serving Navarro County under the constitution of 1876.  Born in Montgomery County, March 1, 1846, his parents brought him to Navarro County the same year.  Raised on a farm in the western part of the county, he joined Co. I, 19th Texas Calvary in 1863, at the age of 17 and served in the Confederacy.   He read law and was sworn in as a lawyer before District Judge Frank P. Wood in 1870.  His first public job was a County Attorney in 1870, but was removed by the scalawag Governor, E. J. Davis, for obstructing the reconstruction.  Besides being County Judge, in 1878 he was elected to the 16th Texas legislature and became District Judge in 1886.  His marriage to Mary Winkler, June 4, 1872, was the first wedding in the new Methodist church.  He had nine children and lived at 1325 West Thirteenth Avenue.  Among grandchildren living in Corsicana are Alton Justiss, Mrs. Sue Gibson Burnett, and Sam Frost.  Mrs. Beth Almond Harris of Dallas is a granddaughter.   The town of Cross Roads in West Navarro County was renamed Frost in his honor.   He died Jan 1, 1908. ... also

See Also:


JAMES L. HARLE, COUNTY JUDGE, Jan. 1, 1879 - Dec. 31, 1880
Judge Harle was a lawyer and publisher who lived at 806 E. 10th Ave.  As a local political head of "The People's Party," he owned the Central Texas Publishing Co., located at 216 W. Collin, and published "Truth", a newspaper with 3,000 subscribers.  He had previously been mayor of Corsicana, from 1875 to 1877.  As judge, he contracted for a new courthouse in May 1880.  His daughter married Francis Marion Martin, who later became Lieutenant Governor of Texas.

See Also:


RICHARD CHANNING BEALE, 1881 - May 1884
Judge Beale, a prominent lawyer, was born in 1846 and died in 1889.  He was a Confederate veteran, was in charge of the opening of the new courthouse in 1881.  Due to illness, he resigned in May 1884.  Personal information about him and his family is not available, but his tombstone at the Oakwood Cemetery in Corsicana, Texas, has the inscription "Lawyer-Orator," indicating his high professional standing.


JAMES LOCKHART AUTRY, May 1884 - Nov. 1884
A very prominent lawyer and businessman, Judge Autry completed the un-expired term of Judge Beale who could not serve on account of illness.  He was principal stockholder and president of the Sun Light Publishing Co., which later became the Daily Sun.  He was president of the Corsicana Water and Development Co.,  The Abstract and Land Company, The Corsicana Fishing and Hunting Club, and the Corsicana Commercial Club.  A law partner of W. J. McKie, he became general counsel for the Texas Company and moved to Houston.  He was related to the Kinsloe family by marriage.  He died in 1930 an was interred at the Glenwood Cemetery at Houston, TX.

Notes:


JOHN HOLT RICE III, Nov. 1884 - Nov 1894
Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, January 28, 1853, the son of a Presbyterian minister, he studied law with B. R. Forman in New Orleans, moved to Tennessee on account of his health, then came to Corsicana, in 1875, joining Wm. J. McKie as partner, was elected County Judge in 1884 and held the office for five terms.  He married Lena Wood, daughter of Judge Frank P. Wood, and lived at 526 N. 15th Street.  One of our best judges, he died Jan 11, 1921 and is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery, Corsicana, Texas (Section D, Row 2)
[Marker Photo].  He was of small stature, had a white mustache, was very sociable and liked to fish. [Funeral Home Record]


From the Collection of Edward L. Williams


MARTIN L. SHELTON, Nov. 1894 - Oct. 1896
A member of the law firm of Grantham & Shelton, he was County Judge for two years, holding office when the new oil field was brought in.  Personal information is lacking, but records indicate he was a bachelor and resided on North Nineteenth Street.


JESSE FRANKLIN STOUT, Nov. 1896 - Nov. 1900
Born in Wilks County, North Carolina, on February 6, 1846, Judge Stout came to Corsicana with the arrival of the H. & T. C. Railroad.  He married Anna Green, daughter of Dr. Richard Green, read law with Judge Frost and practiced law until 1826.  He was the first customer of the First National Bank, was very active in real-estate.  He was mayor of Corsicana from 1890 - 1892.  He died on August 11, 1936 and is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery, Corsicana, Texas (Section H, Row 4).  He has one daughter living in Corsicana, Mrs. Katrina Wright, who is well known here.  [Obituary]

 

 


AUGUSTUS B. GRAHAM, Nov. 1900 - Nov. 1904
Born in 1861, Judge Graham came from Fairfield, was a single man most of his life but married his wife, Kate, late in life and lived at 1706 W. Third Avenue.  Plans were drawn and bonds were voted for the present courthouse during his administration.  He died January 7, 1909, age 48, and is buried at Liberty Hill Cemetery.


CHARLES LEE JESTER, Nov. 1904 - Nov. 1908
Lee Jester was born September 17, 1871, the grandson of the first settler, Hampton McKinney and the second child of C. W. and Eliza Rakestraw Jester, making him of the best pioneer stock.    He was educated in Staunton Military Academy of Virginia and the University of Texas law school.  He married Belle Fish and raised three daughters, Mrs. Claude (Elise) Meadows, Mrs. Armistead (Sara) Rust, now deceased, and Mrs John (Arabella) Minor.  During his term of office, contract for the present courthouse was let and the building was completed about eight months later.  A Prohibition election was held in December 1904 and the County was voted dry.  A member of the law firm of Davis, Jester, Tarver and George, he was a prominent lawyer.   He was a cousin of Governor Beauford H. Jester, was an active Methodist, a member of Masonic Bodies, and an authority on Navarro County history.  Residing at 218 S. 15th Street, he died Nov. 25, 1942 and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Corsicana.


JAMES M. BLANDING, Nov. 1908 - Nov. 1912
Judge Blanding came from a distinguished family of lawyers, was born in South Carolina January 12, 1851, came to Texas in 1873 and was admitted to the bar the same year, serving as Justice-of-the-Peace 14 months.  At different times he was law partner with William Croft, then Sam Frost, and later R. S. Neblett.  He was a School Board member six years, a board Trustee of Austin College, served four years as a city alderman, belonged to all the Masonic bodies, and was a Presbyterian.  He purchased Cedar Hall, the first assembly building in Corsicana, built about 1853 of cedar logs and located at 406 West Fourth Avenue on property now owned by the Presbyterian Church.  His home was at 628 West Third Avenue.  He died September 22, 1940 and is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery, Corsicana (Section J, Row 1), and his five children are now deceased. 

Notes:


ROBERT ROSS OWEN, 1912 - 1916
Born February 9, 1879 in Hinds County, Mississippi, Judge Owen came to Corsicana about the turn of the century.  An authority on real-estate titles, he and his wife, Lillie, lived at 1120 West Fifth Avenue.  His office was in the old Daily Sun building.   He died December 9, 1965 and is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery, Corsicana (Section O, Row 1).  A son, Robert, still lives in the family home.

Notes:


HENRY ERNEST TRAYLOR, 1916 - 1920
Born in Mississippi on April 10, 1862, Judge Traylor came to Corsicana and practiced law for many years.  A bachelor, he lived at 631 North Beaton Street and 417 West Second Avenue, was a prominent Odd Fellow.  He died December 9, 1944, 82 years of age and is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery, Corsicana (Section N, Row 4).


AUGUSTUS PACE MAYS, 1920 - 1924
Son of Richard Mays, he was a distinguished lawyer in his own right, was born November 22, 1894, educated in Corsicana public schools, graduated from the University of Texas Law School, and served as a captain and combat Soldier in World War I.  Coming back to Corsicana, he practiced law with his father, later with the firm of Mays, Jacobs & Pevehouse and, besides his term as county judge was also district judge.  He was active in St. John's Episcopal Church, the Masonic Lodge, the Navarro County Bar association, which he served as president, and the Texas Fox and Wolf Hunters Association.  He judged many field trials of bird dogs and other hunting dogs.   He moved from the Mays residence to his farm on Richland Creek.  He was married for many years to Billie, who died, and then to Mary Johnson, who survives.   There were no children.  He died July 18, 1974 and is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery, Corsicana, Texas. (Section G, Row 4)  

See also:


WARREN HICKS, 1924 - 1928
Born in the Barry community in 1896, Judge Hicks is a Navarro County native who did well in his chosen profession of law.  He started as a teacher in the Fish Tank School, then went to the University of Texas and procured his Law degree.  He and his wife Buena, lived at 1800 Maplewood, During the '30's he left Corsicana for Houston, where at 79 years of age he is still practicing law with the firm of Kemper, Hicks, and Cromer.


HENRY CLAY NASH, Jr., 1928 - 1932
The son of Eleazar Nash, one of the very earliest pioneers, who settled at Pisgah Ridge, Judge Nash was born in 1873 and practiced law all his life in Corsicana.  He and his wife, Elizabeth (1873-1954), lived at 1243 West Fifth Avenue and had a son, Henry V.  Nash (1902 - 1946).  Judge Nash died in 1954 at 81 years of age.  He is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery, Corsicana (Section G, Row 6).


C. EDGAR McWILLIAMS, 1932 - 1936
The son of a Texas legislator, John Mordecai McWilliams, Judge McWilliams was born July 12, 1890, at Powell, Navarro County.  After teaching school, he attended Blackstone Institute in Chicago, graduating in 1920.  A very capable and honest man, he made a good judge.  He was a law partner with C. W. Taylor, later with W. W. Harris, and then Roe, Ralston and McWilliams.  He was an army captain during World War I, a member of the American Legion, Rotary Club, the Selective Service Board, Masonic Lodge, and Knights of Pythias Lodge.  He and his wife, Lola May, lived at 1820 Maplewood.   He died February 11, 1971,.  Mrs. McWilliams still lives here, has two daughters, Mrs. Morris Stewart of Little Rock, Arkansas, and Mrs. Jack Baggett of Corsicana. [ Biography ]


PAUL H. MILLER, 1936 - Sept. 1940
Paul Miller came from a very well known and highly regarded family of Corsicana.   Born Dec. 4, 1905, the son of Dr. T. A. Miller, he attended Corsicana public schools, held several jobs and was elected judge in 1936.  In court he was informal but very careful to render correct decisions, as indicated by his record.  He resigned in September, 1940, to go into active military service as a medic with the 36th infantry Division of the Texas National Guard, serving in the Italian campaigns.  On returning to civilian life, he continued his medical work, as had most of his family.   He is now retired and lives at 2122 N. Beaton Street.  His wife, Louise, teaches school.  He is active in the Church of Christ.

See Also:


DAVID RALSTON, Sept. 1940 - Dec. 31, 1940
Appointed by the Governor to complete the remaining 3 1/2 months on the term of Judge Paul Miller, who had resigned to go into the army, David Ralston, a graduate of the University of Texas Law School and a partner in the firm of Roe, Ralston, & McWilliams, was and still is one of Corsicana's best practicing attorneys.  With no political ambitions, he went back to private practice when the 3 1/2 months term was up.  He and his wife, Barbara live at 1413 Columbia.   They have four grown children, Sandra, Shirley, David, Jr., and Paul.  David, Jr., is at present an assistant district attorney for Navarro County.   

Estill D. (DITT) McCORMICK, Jan. 1, 1941 - April 1944
Ditt McCormick was born in Blooming Grove November 7, 1908, had been a mortician before becoming judge.  He was elected for two terms but resigned in April 1944 to enter the army.  He and his wife, Beatrice, had five very attractive daughters.  Four have moved away from the County, but one, Mrs. J. B. McGraw, lives at Frost, Texas.  Judge McCormick, upon returning from the army, was editor of the Blooming Grove Times until his death Dec. 11, 1971.

See Also: WWII : WWII Biography : Obituary : Frost Mayor


BEATRICE ROBINSON McCORMICK, April 1944 - Dec. 1944
We have here the first lady to hold office as County Judge in the State of Texas, appointed by Gov. Coke Stevenson to fill the unexpired term of her husband, Judge Ditt McCormick, who had resigned to go into the army.  Born September 27, 1910, she is a member of the well known Robinson family of Blooming Grove.  Hen her husband returned from the army, she helped him publish the Blooming Grove Times until his death in 1971.   As stated above, she has five daughters, is a member of the Navarro County Historical Society, and takes part in public affairs.
 

LONNIE L. POWELL, Jan. 1, 1945 - 1948
Judge Powell was born January 1, 1889 in Monroe, Union Parish, Louisiana, the son of Mr. and Mrs. W. D. Powell of Barry.  He came to Navarro County as a young man, and taught school; later he operated a gin.  He entered the service during World War I on July 5, 1918, training in the Postal Express Service at Camp Mac Arthur, Texas, until he was sent to France September 29, 1918.  He received his discharge from service July 18, 1919. He and his wife, Pauletta, lived at 1216 West Second Avenue.  He resigned in early 1948 because of illness and died February 9, 1949. 

See Also: 


JOE E. HUFFSTUTLER, 1948 - 1951
A native of Blooming Grove, Judge Huffstutler was born January 22, 1908.  Serving in World War II as an Air Force Captain, he became a lawyer and was appointed to fill the vacancy of County Judge in 1948 when Judge Powell resigned on account of illness.  He was elected to a full term in November 1948 and married Mozelle Holmes of Corsicana.   Before his term was complete, he resigned as County Judge to become a Federal Judge in Tyler, Texas. 

Notes:


JAMES CARROLL SEWELL, 1951 - 1956
Judge Sewell was born in Blooming Grove April 13, 1912, the son of Jay Lamont Sewell, a good citizen of the town.  In the Navy during World War II he was accidentally blinded by an explosion.  After the war he was elected to the Texas Legislature and at the same time entered the University of Law School.  With the help of his wife, Janet, who read his lessons to him, he graduated with a degree in Law.  When Judge Huffstutler resigned in 1951, he was appointed to full the vacancy of County Judge.   He was the first blind judge to hold office but managed to do fairly well, despite the handicap.  He lives at 2901 West Fourth Avenue and has two grown sons, Jimmie and Jay.  His wife, Janet, passed away recently and he, himself, has been seriously ill.   In 1956 he was elected District Judge, which position he held for 16 years.  A liberal Democrat, he has been sought out by many political candidates seeking office, and he has wielded considerable power with certain groups.
 [see also]


KENNETH A. (BUCK) DOUGLAS, 1956 - 2005
Buck Douglas was born at Cryer Creek February 17, 1927, the son of Lawrence A. and Gladys Douglas, moving to Corsicana and being educated in local schools.  He joined the army in World War II, then returned and graduated from Baylor Law School.  In 1959 he was appointed Municipal Judge for the city of Corsicana, holding this position three years until November 1959 when he was elected Country Judge.  He held this position longer than any previous incumbent, 16 years.  During his tenure of office, in 1964, the courthouse was renovated and modernized at a cost of $350,000.  In 1972 he resigned as judge to become head of the Texas Association of Counties in Austin, Texas.  He and his wife, Dorothy, live on West Highway 31 and have two sons.

Notes:


ROBERT CULLEN DUNN, December 1972 to ?
Judge Dunn was born in Corsicana March 16, 1947, the son of Cullen and Jane Dunn.  He is a great-great grandson of Judge F. P. Wood, a great-nephew of Sheriff E. E. Dunn, who served during the 1880's and is a descendent of other well known citizens.  He attended school at Navarro College, Baylor University and procured his law degree from South Texas College of Law, working on the Houston Ship Canal during the daytime and going to school at night.  He was appointed County Judge in December, 1972, to fill the vacancy left by Judge Douglas who had resigned to take an office in Austin.  And he was elected in November, 1974, for another term.  He and his wife, the former Pamela Olsen, live on Rt. 5, have two children, Carrie and Lawson.  He is a young man with considerable drive and a lot of politics lies in his future.
 

THE DISTRICT JUDGES

The District Judge handles major cases in his district, which might be more than one county, one county, or a portion of a county, depending upon the density of the population.  In early days, Navarro County belonged to districts which had as many as a half dozen or more counties.  But today, with a much heavier population, Navarro County has its own Thirteenth Judicial District.   But the earl judges stayed on a circuit which kept them approximately two months in each of their respective counties.  Beside handling civil and criminal matters, the District Judge of today is also a Juvenile Judge of his district.  His job requires great intelligence, responsibility, and character.  The following men have been District Judges over Navarro County.


ROBERT EMMETT BLEDSOE BAYLOR, 1846 - 1850
Quite an old timer, Judge Baylor was born in Lincoln County, Kentucky, May 10, 1791, served in the War of 1812, was in the Alabama legislature in 1824, the U. S. Congress in 1828, and became a Baptist minister in 1839.  Coming to Texas in 1841, he settled in Fayette County, taught school, and was elected to the Texas Congress.  He was elected judge of the 3rd Judicial District, which, at that time, made him automatically an associate justice of the State Supreme Court.  For 20 years he made his district court circuit, carrying his law book, his Bible, and probably a pistol in his saddlebags.   He was well known in Navarro County, always arriving at court on Saturday evenings and then adjourning court to preach an old time Baptist sermon that night and then on Sundays.  He is best known for helping found Baylor University, which carried his name and was originally located at his hometown of Independence, Texas, before being moved to Waco.  He died at Gay Hill, Washington County Dec. 10, 1873, at 82 years of age, had never been married.

Notes:

 

BENNETT H. MARTIN, 1850 - 1853
Not a great deal is known about Judge Martin other than that he lived in Palestine while serving as District Judge in Navarro County.  He was an elderly man, had considerable wit, and was a fine judge, according to Major John L. Miller.  In an 1852 case in which Jack Elliott was plaintiff, he held that the Jehu Peoples league and the Rachel Leach league, both in the Corsicana area, were in Burnett's Colony which previously had had its northern limits in mid-Limestone County.  This stretch of judicial imagination helped straighten out a lot of titles which otherwise would have been fouled up.


JOHN H. REAGAN, 1853 - 1856
Here is another distinguished legislator from Palestine, Texas.  He was born in Tennessee October 8, 1818, educated as a surveyor and came to Texas in 1840.  He stopped at Porter's Bluff, Navarro County, and laid off the town of Taos which received almost enough votes to be the capital of Texas, the honor, instead going to Austin.   In 1851 he moved to Palestine, became a lawyer, and was elected district judge, which job he held for six years, three of which included Navarro County.  He entered Congress in 1857, resigned to join the Confederate Army in 1861, became Secretary of the Treasury, and was captured about the end of the war by the Federals.  He returned to Palestine in 1865, was a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1875, a state senator in 1887, and later, head of the Texas Railroad Commission.  He was married three times, and several children, and died March 6, 1905. 
 

Notes:


HENRY J. JEWETT, 1856 - 1858
Not a great deal of information is available about Judge Jewett other than that he was one of the original settlers in Leon County and the town of Jewett was named for him.  He was a leader in his community and was a good judge.


JOHN GREGG, 1858 - 1860
Born in Lawrence County, Alabama, September 2, 1828, he moved to Fairfield, Texas in 1854, was elected judge in 1856.  In 1858 Navarro County was added to his circuit.  He resigned in 1860 to join the Confederate Congress.  However, he left the Congress and joined Hood's brigade as a brigadier general and was killed in action October 7, 1864.   He is buried in Abrdeen, Mississippi.

See Also: 


JAMES C. WALKER, 1860 - 1866
Judge Walker, of Limestone County, presided during the Civil War years.  Records during this time indicate very little court action.  No personal information on Judge Walker is available. 


ROBERT S. GOULD, 1866 - 1867
Born in Iredell County, North Carolina, December 16, 1826, he moved to Alabama and graduated from the University of Alabama in 1844, coming to Centerville, Texas, in 1851.   He was elected district judge in 1861 but never served, going into the Confederate army instead.  In 1866 he ran again for district judge.  The first returns showed Col. C. M. Winkler, of Corsicana elected.  Winkler was sworn in as judge, but after several days, a recheck showed that Gould had won by three votes.  Col. Winkler withdrew from office without contest.  However, Gould's tenure of office was brief, because in October 1867, General Grainger, of the Union army of occupation, fired him as being an impediment to reconstruction.  In 1870 Judge Goul moved to Galveston, where he was elected a member of the Texas Supreme Court, serving as chief justice one year.   In 1883, he and Governor Oran Roberts were appointed the first law professors of the University of Texas.


NAT HART DAVIS, Oct. 1867 - 1870
A product of Reconstruction times in Texas, he was appointed by the military governor and removed about 3 years later by the scalawag governor, Edmond J. Davis.  He was under considerable pressure for letting carpetbaggers get by with crimes and law violations but probably was not in position to do anything about it.  Personal details on Judge Davis are not available.


FRANK P. WOOD, 1870 - 1876
We now come to one of our best judges, born Francis Peyton Wood, but he always signed district court records and other memoranda as Frank P. Wood.  Born in Prince Edward County, Virginia, July 29, 1823, he was educated in Virginia and married Pauline Scott.   They had seven children.  He managed his father's plantation in Virginia and came to Texas in 1857, having a harrowing ship-wreck experience en route.  In 1859 he operated a plantation in Texas and joined the Confederate army in 1861.  Being overweight with 249 pounds and ruptured, he was placed in the Quartermaster Corps but nevertheless had an active time, running Union blockades and visiting Mexico.  After the war, he studied law and became county  judge of Washington County in 1867. In 1870 he was appointed judge of the 35th Judicial District by Governor Davis, holding his first Navarro County term in October 1870.  He was highly regarded throughout his district, especially in Corsicana, where he made his home.  He died suddenly November 20, 1878 and was buried in Corsicana.  He has a number of descendents, including a granddaughter, Mrs. Lovie Dunn, two great-grandsons, Dr. Hugh Drane and Cullen Dunn, and a great-great-grandson, Robert C. Dunn, county judge.

Notes:

  • Oakwood Cemetery ?

D. M. PRENDERGAST, 1876 - 1880
Born in Shelbyville, Tennessee, December 26, 1816, he moved to Franklin, Texas.   After hunting Indians and teaching school, he read law under James Raymond and was admitted to the bar in Brazos County in 1845.  He moved to Springfield, where he was Chief Justice of Limestone County in 1848.  When the Civil War came, he served in the Confederate army.  In 1873 he was appointed to fill the un-expired term of Judge Blanton in the legislature.  In 1876 he was elected judge in a new district, including Navarro, Limestone, and Freestone Counties.  He held this position until 1880 when he retired, entering the banking business in Mexia, where a bank still bears his name.  An ardent prohibitionist, he once ran for governor on the Prohibition ticket.   He has many descendents around Mexia.


L. D. BRADLEY, 1880 - 1886
A big, dark complicated, 250-pound, 6-footer, he came to Fairfield from Selma, Alabama, after graduating from Transylvania University at Lexington, Kentucky.  He ordered two companies of men for the Confederate army and served in both branches of the Texas Legislature.  Elected judge in 1880, he died in office in 1886, was buried in Fairfield. He was a man of good character but not religious.  He belonged to the Masonic Lodge.  He left nine children and a large estate.


SAMUEL ROMULUS FROST, 1886 - 1888

Judge Frost was appointed by Governor Ireland to fill the un-expired term of Judge Bradley, who died in office.  He was a resident of Navarro County and a competent judge.   He was elected for two more years and went into private practice in 1889.  His personal details are enumerated under his listing with the County Judges.

See Also:

Biography  of Samuel Romulus Frost


RUFUS HARDY, 1888 - 1896
Born December 16, 1855, in Monroe County, Mississippi, Judge Hardy was educated at Somerset Institute in Noxuba County, Mississippi, when Thomas S. Gathright was president.   Gathright was later the first president of Texas A. & M.  Completing his law course at the University, Judge Hardy came to Navasota, Texas in June 1876 and in 1878 moved to Corsicana, where he was elected prosecuting attorney and district attorney.   In 1881 he married Felicia E. Peck and they had seven children, residing at 615 West Third Avenue.  After eight years service as District Judge he was elected Congressman, which office he held for eight terms, from March 4, 1907 to March 3, 1923.   He returned to Corsicana and practiced law until his death March 13, 1943 at age 88.  A number of descents live in this area.

See Also:


LODOWICK BRODIE COBB, Jan. 1, 1897 - Dec. 31, 1908
Judge Cobb was born in Clarksville, Arkansas, March 1, 1849 and received his education in Tennessee.  Coming to Grosbeak, Texas, he practiced law and was elected district judge in November 1896.  Since his district included Corsicana, he moved here about 1908, living at 406 West Second Avenue.  He and his wife, Evelyn, raised two sons and four daughters.  A very dignified and intelligent man, he was one of our best judges.   He died March 26, 1922, 73 years of age.  Mrs. Edward M. Polk, Jr. is one of his grand-daughters.


HUGH B. DAVISS, Jan. 1, 1909 - Dec. 31, 1920
Judge Daviss was born March 22, 1866, and came to Corsicana from Cotton Gin, Limestone County, when elected judge of this district.  He and his wife, Sallie, lived at 2001 West Fifth Avenue and raised five children.  He was a member of the Methodist Church.   He died December 15, 1930.  Three daughters, Mrs. Margaret Jackson, Mrs. Melissa King, and Mrs. Carro Kelton, still reside in Corsicana.


THOMAS HAWKINS SCARBOROUGH, Jan. 1, 1921 - Jan. 1935
Judge Scarborough was our first district judge born in Navarro County.  The son of John Matthews and Mary Catherine Hawkins Scarborough of Alabama, he was born Nov 24, 1885, was raised on the family farm above Zions Rest, and walked to school in Corsicana every day.  He graduated in Law from the University of Texas.  A tall slender man, he was a forceful speaker, frequently in controversy but a kind and reasonable man with it all.  He castigated the Ku Klux Klan and out-talked any opponent who dared run against him for office.  He would tackle and arrest law violators barehanded.  He married Bessie Miller, raised two children, Hawkins, Jr., and Ann, and lived at 516 South Fifteenth Street.  He died suddenly in early January, 1935, and Navarro County lost a good judge, as is indicated by the fact that the high courts consistently upheld his decisions.

 

 

JOHN SPENCER. CALLICUTT, Jan. 7, 1935 - Dec. 31, 1935
A very astute trial lawyer, Judge Callicutt was appointed by Gov. Miriam A. Ferguson to complete the term of Judge Hawkins Scarborough, who had died in office.  Born in Pittsburg, Texas September 4, 1865, and raised in the Cryer Creek Community, he was educated at Southwestern University of Georgetown and Texas University, graduating in Law in 1887.  He was a partner with E. O. Call, Fred Upchurch, and others and was most effective in court practice.  He was associated with the Central State Bank, The Royall Coffee Co., the Central Texas Grocery Co., and the S. A. Pace Grocery Co., was a member of the Methodist Church and all Masonic bodies.  Married to Evie Jack of Greensboro, Alabama, he has six children and lived at 1244 West Fourth Avenue.  He died May 8, 1944 and was buried at the Oakwood Cemetery in Corsicana.  A daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Hanks, resides in the family home. - Obituary
 

WAYNE R. HOWELL, January 1, 1937 - June 26, 1943
Born near Corsicana, November 15, 1892, Judge Howell was educated in local schools and received his Law degree from the University of Texas.  A brilliant lawyer and speaker, he served well on the bench for over three terms.  He an his wife, Alma, lived at 1528 Woodlawn.  He resigned June 26, 1943, to be general counsel for the M. K. & T. Railroad in St. Louis, Missouri.  Now at 83 years of age he is living in Denison, Texas, where he does limited law practice.  He has two brothers in Corsicana and a sister in Beaumont.


AUGUSTUS PACE (GUS) MAYS, July 5, 1943 - Dec. 31, 1956
Judge Mays was appointed to fill the un-expired term of Judge Howell, who had resigned.   He was re-elected to six more terms and made an excellent judge.  Because he was previously a county judge, personal details are found in his listing as a county judge.


JAMES CARROLL SEWELL, Jan. 2, 1957 - Dec. 31, 1972
Holding the position for 16 years, Judge Sewell was district judge longer than any other incumbent.  He had previously been county judge and was the third official in Navarro County to be both county judge and district judge.  Personal details are to be found in his listing as a county judge.


DONALD NICHOLSON, January 1, 1973 - ??
Born January 16, 1935, the son of Danny and Fay Nicholson, he attended public schools, was valedictorian of his graduating class in 1953.  Going to SMU, he received a BA degree in 1957 and a Law Degree in 1959.  He was Assistant District Attorney for Henry Wade in Dallas from 1961 to 1963.  He later served as first Assistant U. S. Attorney, Eastern District of Texas and Federal Assistant District Attorney in Tyler.  He came back to Corsicana to attend to his property interests and was elected District Judge in the 1972 campaign.  Living at 2027 West Park Avenue, he and his wife, Margaret, have two children, Danny and Fay.  As District Judge, he is also Juvenile Judge of Navarro County.  On the bench, he is very careful to be fair and correct in his decisions, and his record with the appellate courts has been good.
 

JAMES P. BAGNALL, January 1, 1994 - ?  
Judge Bagnall was elected the 17th County Judge of Navarro County in 1994 and took office in January 1995.  He grew up in the Dallas area, graduated from Highland Park High School, received a B. S. degree from S.M.U. in Psychology in 1984.  He earned his M.S. in Physical Education, Sports Psychology from North Texas State in 1987.  In 1992 he received a Law Degree from Saint Mary's School of Law in San Antonio.  In 1993, he joined the Navarro County Criminal District Attorney's office as an Assistant Criminal District Attorney.  Judge Bagnall has been very involved in the restoration of the courthouse, also he works with Dr. Bernard Rosen to improve Highway 31.
 

OTHER JUDGES


This Page Last Updated on 03/03/14
Navarro County TXGenWeb
© Copyright 2001 Edward L. Williams & Barbara Knox