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Frank Alvan Williams (1851-1945)

Associate Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1899-1911

Frank Alvan Williams was born October 6, 1851 to prosperous Mississippi pioneer parents. He was the youngest of four sons; the family also included five daughters. He grew up on the family farm, Smallwood Place, near Macon in Noxubee County, Mississippi, where slaves provided the labor. Williams received his early education at home, and his earliest ambition was to become a lawyer. His father died when he was eleven years old, leaving his mother to manage the farm and her large family during the Civil War. She died when Williams was sixteen.

In 1871, at the age of twenty, Williams left Mississippi and moved to Crockett, Texas, where his sister lived. The difficult journey was made in the midst of a wet winter in a stagecoach pulled by a team of four small mules. It took him through black prairies, river and creek bottoms, deep mud, steep hills of clay, and roads washed into deep ruts and gullies, and was punctuated by the vehicle overturning several times. When he arrived in Crockett, Williams studied law in the office of his sister's husband, D. A. Nunn, and after being admitted to the bar in 1872, the two practiced together for the next twelve years. Williams married in 1880, and he and his wife had five children.

Williams' lengthy judicial career began in 1884 when Gov. Ireland appointed him judge of the Third Judicial District. He served in the position until 1892, when Gov. Hogg appointed him judge of the newly-created Court of Civil Appeals for the First Judicial District at Galveston. He served in the position until 1899 when he resigned to accept an appointment by Gov. Sayers as an associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court, filling the vacancy left when Leroy Denman resigned. He was elected to the position in 1900 and served until 1911, when he resigned to return to private practice.

Following his judicial service, Williams practiced law in Austin for two years before returning to Galveston. During the next thirty-three years he went on to argue many cases before the Texas Supreme Court. He died January 30, 1945 at the age of ninety-four at his home in Galveston.

Notable opinions

Hanrick v. Gurley, 93 Texas reports 458 (1900)

Coverdill v. Seymour, 94 Texas reports 1 (1900)

Blackwell v. Coleman County, 94 Texas reports 216 (1900)

His opinion in Texas Central Railway Company v. Bowman, 97 Texas reports 417 (1904), holds valid a statute giving railroads rights-of-way over public lands, including lands set apart for the State School Fund.


In Memoriam, 149 Texas reports 659 (1951).

Davenport, J. H. (Jewette Harbert). The history of the Supreme Court of the state of Texas: with biographies of the chief and associate justices. Austin, Tex. , c1917. The Making of Modern Law (Gale. 2006. Thomson Gale: August 18, 2006).

8 Texas Bar Journal 322.

Williams, Fred L., Jr. A Texas Portrait: Frank A. Williams, 27 Texas Bar Journal 241.

Extended bibliography

Aldrich, Armistead Albert. The History of Houston County, Texas 168 (San Antonio, Texas: The Naylor Co., 1943).

Who's Who in Texas 252. Emory E. Bailey, ed. (Dallas, Texas: Who's Who Publishing Co., 1931).

Boswell, Harry James. American Blue Book, Texas Attorneys 87 (Minneapolis, Minnesota: H. James Boswell and Son, 1926).

Davenport, Jewette Harbert. The History of the Supreme Court of the State of Texas 238 (Austin, Texas: Southern Law Book Publishers, 1917).

Griffin, Samuel Chester. History of Galveston, Texas 381 (Galveston, Texas: A. H. Cawston, 1931).

1 Year Book for Texas 420. Cadwell Walton Raines, compiler (Austin, Texas: Gammel Book Co., 1902-1903).

Richardson, Thomas Clarence. 2 East Texas, Its History and Its Makers 585 (New York, New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1940).

Speer, Ocie. Texas Jurists 100, 212 (Austin, Texas: the author, 1936).

Additional information available in Southwestern Historical Quarterly as follow:
Volume 48, page 565
Volume 60, page 10, 18

Additional information available in Texas Bar Journal as follow:
Volume 8, page 322
Volume 27, page 241

In Memoriam, 149 Texas reports 659 (1951).