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Memoirs of three former chief justices provide newinsight to inner workings of the Texas Supreme Court

The Jamail Center for Legal Research at The University of Texas at Austin has published the oral memoirs of three former chief justices of the Texas Supreme Court.

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AUSTIN, Texas—The Jamail Center for Legal Research at The University of Texas at Austin has published the oral memoirs of three former chief justices of the Texas Supreme Court.

The memoirs, which cover 35 years of the court’s history, are titled A Texas Supreme Court Trilogy. The three-volume set includes lengthy oral history interviews with Joe R. Greenhill, Jack Pope and the late Robert W. Calvert.

In his foreword to A Texas Supreme Court Trilogy, the current chief justice, Thomas R. Phillips, calls the interviews “an invaluable resource for those interested in the modern development of the Supreme Court of Texas,” especially since the only comprehensive history of the court was published in 1917.

The interviews with Calvert, Greenhill and Pope shed new light on the Texas Supreme Court’s inner workings, its landmark decisions and its members during their tenure (1950-1985). All three have much to say about campaigning for statewide office and their ideas for reforming judicial elections. In addition, all three graduated from The University of Texas School of Law in the 1930s, and their accounts provide lively perspectives on their law professors and legal studies.

“The interviews reveal each of these men as principled, warm human beings, devoted to both their fellow man and the rule of law,” said Professor Roy M. Mersky, director of the Jamail Center for Legal Research.

The interviews were conducted in 1985-1986 as part of the UT law school’s contribution to the 1986 Texas Sesquicentennial Celebration. The interviewer, Dr. H. W. “Bill” Brands, is now professor of history at Texas A&M University. Each interview includes a detailed index of names, court cases and subjects.

The three-volume Texas Supreme Court Trilogy can be purchased for $50 from the Jamail Center for Legal Research, and individual volumes are available for $20 each. For additional information contact Mike Widener of the Tarlton Law Library at (512) 471-7263 or via email at mwidener@mail.law.utexas.edu.

Volume 1: Oral History Interview With the Honorable Robert W. Calvert consists of nine interviews covering Calvert’s professional life beginning with his childhood in the Corsicana State Home and his studies at the University of Texas (LL.B., 1931). Calvert discusses Texas governors Jim Ferguson, Miriam Ferguson, James Allred and Beauford Jester; fellow Hill County attorneys in the 1930s; the liberal-conservative split in the post-war Texas Democratic Party; the Lyndon Johnson-Coke Stevenson contest for the U.S. Senate in 1948; South Texas political boss George Parr and campaigning for judicial office. He also talks about his support for reforms in judicial selection in Texas, his judicial philosophy, important opinions he wrote while on the Texas Supreme Court, the functioning of the Texas Supreme Court, his briefing attorneys and tort law.

Volume 2: Oral History Interview With the Honorable Joe R. Greenhill, Sr. consists of six interviews in which Greenhill discusses his early life in Houston, his education at The University of Texas and its law school (LL.B., 1939) and his early years and accomplishments as an attorney and judge. Among the subjects discussed by Greenhill are products liability law, tort reform, water law, oil and gas law, and problems with judicial elections. In a “Historical Postscript” Greenhill reminisces about his colleagues on the bench.

Volume 3: Oral History Interview With the Honorable Jack Pope includes nine interviews with Pope speaking about his family history; his childhood in Abilene, his undergraduate education at Abilene Christian College; his legal education at the UT School of Law (LL.B., 1937), his career as a practicing attorney in Corpus Christi and his personal and judicial accomplishments. Pope discusses his judicial philosophy; campaigning for judicial office; his recollections of colleagues on the bench and his landmark water law decision in the case of Valmont Plantations v. Texas. Pope also talks about water law, tort law, South Texas political boss George Parr, the bench and bar of Corpus Christi, the professionalization of the Texas bar and his efforts to reform Texas civil procedure and judicial administration.

Find information about The Jamail Center for Legal Research at The University of Texas at Austin