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Robert Wilburn Calvert (1905-1994)

Associate Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1950-1961
Chief Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1961-1972

Robert Wilburn Calvert was born February 22, 1905, in Lawrence County, Tennessee. His father, a sharecropper, died in 1912 when Robert was just seven years old, leaving the family without financial support. The following year, his mother brought Robert and his two siblings to Texas and placed them in the State Orphans' Home in Corsicana. For the next ten years he endured harsh conditions there including hunger, physical abuse, and near death during the influenza epidemic of 1918, which claimed the life of his sister, also a resident at the Home.

Calvert graduated from the State Orphans' Home high school as salutatorian of his class in 1923. That fall he moved to Austin and entered The University of Texas, where he studied law. He supported himself by working in state jobs at the Capitol building, dropping out of school from time to time due to financial difficulties.

Following his graduation from law school in 1931, Calvert practiced law in Hillsboro and entered public service, first as a district attorney. He was a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1933 to 1939, and was Speaker of the House from 1937 to 1939. He ran unsuccessfully for state attorney general in 1938.

Calvert married in 1933, and he and his wife had two children. The couple divorced in 1958. He married again in 1962. During the 1940s, Calvert served as Hillsboro City Attorney, Hill County Attorney, and as president of the Hillsboro Independent School District. In 1946, he became the chair of the state executive committee of the Democratic party.

In 1950 Calvert was elected associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court, and held that post until 1961, when he was elected chief justice. He was chief justice until 1972. The 378 opinions he authored during his tenure were known for their brevity and clarity. Calvert served as chairman of the National Conference of Chief Justices from 1970 to 1971.

Following his twenty-two years of supreme court service, Calvert returned to private legal practice. He was a member of the Texas State Ethics Advisory Commission from 1984 to 1985.

Robert W. Calvert died October 6, 1994 in Waco. He was buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin next to his second wife, who predeceased him by several months.


Bennett, Bruce. Judge Robert W. Calvert?Our Namesake. Robert W. Calvert, American Inn of Court website (visited September 21, 2006 ).

Joseph M. Ray, ed. Here Comes the Judge: From State Home to State House, Memoirs of Robert W. Calvert (Waco, Texas: Texan Press, 1977).

Calvert, Robert W. State Cemetery website (visited September 21, 2006).

Calvert, Robert W. Texas Politics (visited September 21, 2006).

Extended bibliography

Calvert, Robert W. Here Comes the Judge: from State Home to State House: Memoirs of Robert Calvert. Joseph M. Ray, ed. (Waco, Texas: Texian Press, 1977).

Additional information available in Southwestern Historical Quarterly as follow:
Volume 60, page 19
Volume 62, page 262
Volume 82, page 329

Additional information available in Texas Bar Journal as follow:
Volume 1, page 62
Volume 13, page 494
Volume 14, page 22
Volume 21, page 75
Volume 24, page 13, 15, 937
Volume 25, page 639
Volume 26, page 101
Volume 27, page 963
Volume 28, page 344
Volume 33, page 694, 977
Volume 35, page 270, 303, 668, 877, 999, 1001
Volume 36, page 24, 183, 738, 884, 1126
Volume 37, page 523
Volume 43, page 910

Combs, W. Arthur. Robert W. Calvert, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Texas (From State Home to State House),Trial Lawyers Forum 17+ (Mar.-Apr., 1970).

Success Story, Waco Tribune Herald, Aug. 20, 1959.

Turner, Thomas. Lawyers Bore and Baffle Judges, Too, Says Jurist, Dallas Morning News, Apr. 11, 1953.

Calvert Asks Re-election to High Court, Dallas Morning News, Apr. 24, 1956.

Morehead, Richard. Calvert Ready to Run for Chief Justice Post, Dallas Morning News, Sept. 17, 1959.

Gardner, William H. Justice Calvert Decries Anarchy, Houston Post, May 21, 1967.

Morehead, Richard M. Calvert Faces Dilemma About Retirement Now, Dallas Morning News, July 12, 1970.

Byer, Bo. Calvert to Snub Dinner with Kennedy as Speaker, Houston Chronicle, July 17, 1970.

Calvert Elected Chairman of Chief Justice Group, Houston Chronicle, Aug. 9, 1970.

New Head of Justices Will Still Snub Ted, Houston Post, Aug. 9, 1970.

Chief Justice Calvert Plans to Call It Quits, Dallas Morning News, Sept. 18, 1971.

Justice Calvert to Retire, Houston Post, Sept. 18, 1971.

Schultz, Gary. Retiring Chief Justice Due House Chamber Honors, Austin American, May 5, 1972.

Calvert Leaves Supreme Court, Austin Statesman, Sept. 18, 1972.

Calvert 'Top Texan', Austin American-Statesman, Feb. 26, 1974.

Ex-Justice Calvert Cited for Long Career in Law, Austin American-Statesman, Mar. 30, 1974.