Visit The University of Texas homepage

Clyde Earl Smith, Sr. (1897-1971)

Associate Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1950-1970

Clyde Earl Smith was born into humble circumstances July 31, 1897 on a tenant farm in Medina County, Texas. His father died when he was four years old, and he was placed in St. Mary's Orphanage in San Antonio. Three years later his mother remarried, and Smith returned to her and her new husband. Growing up in San Antonio until he was thirteen, and then in Woodville, Tyler County, Smith worked as a delivery boy for a cleaning and pressing shop, as a bicycle messenger, and as a peanut and newspaper vendor. When he was seventeen, he left school and went to work in a pressing shop. Judge Robert A. Shivers, father of Gov. Allan Shivers, befriended Smith and allowed him to study in his law office while working nights as a telephone operator in Woodville. Smith was admitted to the bar in 1919 at the age of twenty-two. He was married and had four children.

Smith was elected Tyler County attorney in 1920, served for two years, and then practiced law until 1926, when he was elected district attorney of the Seventy-Fifth Judicial District. He spent the next eight years, from 1927 to 1934, as district attorney. Smith was assistant secretary of state from 1935 to 1937, and ran unsuccessful political campaigns for attorney general (1934), U.S. congress (1936), and railroad commissioner (1940). Smith's judicial service began in 1943 when he became district judge of the Seventy-Fifth Judicial District.

Smith was appointed an associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court in November 1950 by Gov. Allan Shivers to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of James P. Hart. Smith was elected to the position in 1954 and reelected in November 1960 and 1966. He was a proponent of judicial reforms that included speeding up the handling of cases, institution of a court administrator system, and non-partisan judicial elections.

Smith's judicial service ended on a tragic note when his wife of nearly fifty-four years was killed in an automobile accident on Christmas Day 1970, one week before he retired from the bench. Smith died less than five months later, on May 22, 1971, of an apparent heart attack in Columbus, Texas, while on his way to the 100th anniversary banquet of the Houston Bar Association. He was buried in Woodville.


Glen Castlebury. Texas Supreme Court Judge Announces His Resignation, Austin American, November 10, 1970.

Glen Castlebury. Judge Smith Sets Retirement Date, Austin American, November 13, 1970.

Clyde E. Smith Former Justice, Dies at Age 73, The Dallas Morning News, May 24, 1971.

Jesse J. Lee. Clyde E. Smith, the Man and Friend, Typewritten manuscript of remarks for memorial ceremony, Texas Supreme Court, October 30, 1971. Texas Supreme Court Historical Society.

Jack Pope. Memorial Ceremony, Justice Clyde E. Smith, October 30, 1971, Typewritten manuscript. Texas Supreme Court Historical Society.

Reavley, Thomas M. Mr. Justice Clyde Earl Smith, A Man of Purpose, XXIII Baylor Law Review 3-5 (1971).

Extended bibliography

Additional information available in Southwestern Historical Quarterly as follow:
Volume 60, page 19

Additional information available in Texas Bar Journal as follow:
Volume 13, page 590
Volume 23, page 211
Volume 34, page 111, 113, 845, 1054

Duncan, Dawson. Clyde Smith Given Supreme Court Job, Dallas Morning News, Nov. 15, 1950.

Castlebury, Glen. Texas Supreme Court Judge Announces His Resignation, Austin American-Statesman, Nov. 10, 1970.

Smith Leaving Texas High Court, Houston Chronicle, Nov. 10, 1970.

Tuesday Rites Set for Judge, Austin American-Statesman, May 24, 1971.

Judge Smith Services Tuesday, Houston Post, May 24, 1971.