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Thomas Jefferson Brown (1836-1915)

Associate Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1893-1911
Chief Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1911-1915

Born in Jasper County, Georgia, on July 24, 1836, Thomas Jefferson Brown moved with his family to Washington County in the new state of Texas at the age of ten. He attended county schools in Washington County and attended Baylor University, where he earned his LL.B. degree in 1856. After passing the bar exam in 1857, he practiced law in McKinney with future governor James W. Throckmorton. He was married in 1859, and went on to father seven children.

When the Civil War broke out Brown enlisted as second lieutenant in the Twenty-second Texas Cavalry, and was later promoted to captain. Following the war he returned to his law practice in McKinney. In 1872 he relocated to Sherman, where he practiced law with Don A. Bliss for the next sixteen years. He ran successfully for the Texas Legislature in 1888 and served in the Twenty-first and Twenty-second Legislatures, where he focused his energies on establishing regulations to curb corporate aggression and led an effort that resulted in the creation of the Texas Railroad Commission.

In 1892 Brown was appointed district judge of Grayson and Collin counties. The following year he was appointed an associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left when John L. Henry resigned. He would spend the final two decades of his life serving on the court, as an associate justice from 1893 to 1911, and as chief justice from 1911 until his death in 1915. He was known and respected for his impartiality and clarity on the bench.

In his later years Judge Brown's eyesight began to fail, and he was often seen with a tall staff similar to a shepherd's crook, from which he hung a lantern to light his way on his evening walks on the Capitol grounds. A well known figure in Austin, he was said to have resembled a "veritable picture of Father Time himself" as he made his nightly rounds. Brown died of stomach cancer in Greenville, Texas on May 26, 1915.


In Memoriam, 107 Texas reports 657 (1916).

Davenport , Jewette Harbert. The History of the Supreme Court of the State of Texas 217 (Austin, Texas: Southern Law Book Publishers, 1917).

Minor, David. Brown, Thomas Jefferson, Handbook of Texas Online (last updated June 6, 2001).

Extended bibliography

Bentley, H.L. The Texas Legal Directory 32, 41 (Austin, Texas: Democratic Statesman Office, 1877).

Biographical Encyclopedia of Texas 42 (New York, New York: Southern Publishing Co., 1880).

Daniell, Lewis E. Personnel of the Texas State Government (San Antonio, Texas: Maverick Printing House, 1889).

Davenport , Jewette Harbert. The History of the Supreme Court of the State of Texas 217 (Austin, Texas: Southern Law Book Publishers, 1917).

Johnson, Sidney Smith. Texans Who Wore the Gray 97 (Tyler, Texas: 1907).

Raines, Cadwell Walton. 1 Year Book for Texas 34 (Austin, Texas: Gammel Book Co., 1902-1903).

Speer, Ocie. Texas Jurists 96 (Austin, Texas: the author, 1936).

Additional information available in Southwestern Historical Quarterly as follow:
Volume 19, page 110, 162
Volume 38, page 5, 6, 11
Volume 50, page 482, 485
Volume 60, page 10, 18
Volume 63, page 70
Volume 68, page 469

In Memoriam, 107 Texas reports 657 (1916).