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Donald Burt Yarbrough (1941-2017)

Associate Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1977

Donald Burt Yarbrough was born August 5, 1941, in Dallas, Texas. He attended law school at The University of Texas, graduated in 1964, and was licensed to practice the same year.

In 1976, Donald B. Yarbrough was a little known, thirty-five year old Houston lawyer who shared a similar last name with longtime U.S. Senator Ralph Yarborough, and with Donald H. Yarborough, who had run twice for the Texas governorship. Donald B. Yarbrough, a former staff lawyer for Campus Crusade for Christ, ran for a Texas Supreme Court seat in the 1976 election, claiming that God wanted him to run. He reportedly spent $350 on his campaign and made one speech during the primary. Voter confusion and name recognition led to Yarbrough's victory in the Democratic primary over his highly respected opponent, Charles Barrow. While running in the primary, Yarbrough had thirteen civil suits against him pending in state and federal courts. But because there was no Republican candidate, Yarbrough was unopposed in the general election and won the seat; he attributed his victory to God.

Yarbrough was sworn in to service in January 1977 but, facing indictments for forgery and perjury and the possibility of impeachment, he resigned from the court in July of that year. Gov. Dolph Briscoe subsequently appointed Charles Barrow to the court; Barrow was elected and reelected to the position.

Yarbrough was convicted of lying to grand jurors when he denied meeting with an associate to discuss forging a car title, was sentenced in March 1978, and failed to appear in court for sentencing. Instead, he fled with his wife and two children to Grenada where, safe from extradition, he attended medical school. Nineteen months later in 1983, while auditing a medical course in St. Vincent, he was arrested by federal authorities and returned to Texas, where a five-year prison sentence for aggravated perjury awaited him. In 1986 he was sentenced to six years in federal prison for bribery. Following his imprisonment he reportedly relocated to Florida, where he was planning to write a book on his version of the events of 1976-77.

Donald Burt Yarbrough died in Dallas, Texas on August 12, 2017


Bill Pugsley, electronic communication, May 14, 2007.

Ex-Justice Imprisoned in Texas for Perjury. The New York Times, March 19, 1983.

The Name's the Thing. Time, Aug. 30, 1976.

The Sins of Justice Yarbrough. Time, July 18, 1977.

Extended bibliography

Additional information available in Texas Bar Journal as follow:
Volume 40, page 188, 197, 912

Parks, Scott. Yarbrough Says Attorneys' Gifts Conflict of Interest, Corpus Christi Caller, Mar. 30, 1976.

Green, Louise. Yarbrough Wants Texas Supreme Court Run by People, Beaumont Enterprise Journal, Apr. 28, 1976.

Yarbrough Gives Creator Credit, Dallas Morning News, May 5, 1976.

Yarbrough Named Defendant 11 Times, Houston Post, May 5, 1976.

Yarbrough Win Raises Questions About System, Corpus Christi Caller, May 8, 1976.

Bode, Winston. Of Yarbrough and Yarborough, San Angelo Standard Times, May 9, 1976.

Kinch, Sam, Jr. Yarbrough Adamant About Race, Dallas Morning News, Sept. 11, 1976.

Sutton, John. Court Candidate Hints He May Quit if Elected, Austin American-Statesman, Sept. 11, 1976.

Peters, Steve. Controversial Justice-Elect Says Press Unfair, El Paso Times, Nov. 24, 1976.

Montgomery, Dave. The Don Yarbrough Dilemma, Dallas Times-Herald, Nov. 28, 1976.

Wood, Rob. Yarbrough Says Payoff Refused, San Angelo Standard Times, Dec. 1, 1976.

Kennedy, Tom and Mike Avalos. Jaworski Labels Yarbrough Unfit, Houston Post, Dec. 3, 1976.

Wallis, Michael. Yarbrough Claims Disputed, Beaumont Enterprise Journal, Dec. 17, 1976.

Ford, Jon. Yarbrough Takes Court Seat as Controversy Threatens Him, Austin American-Statesman, Jan. 3, 1977.

Bonavita, Fred. Yarbrough Takes Seat on Court, Houston Post, Jan. 3, 1977.

Kinch, Sam, Jr. Yarbrough as Judge, Dallas Morning News, Jan. 8, 1977.

Kennedy, Tom. Yarbrough Denies Pay Failure, Houston Post, Jan. 28, 1977.

Heckmann, Mark. Theft Added to Yarbrough Suit, Houston Chronicle, Mar. 19, 1977.

Coulter, Bill. 20 Allegations Added to Yarbrough Bar Suit, Houston Post, Mar. 19, 1977.

Heard, Robert. Yarbrough Says Court Absolutely Fascinating, Houston Chronicle, May 1, 1977.

Byers, Bo. Don Yarbrough: For a Besieged Man, He Seems To Be Remarkably Relaxed as Associate Justice on Texas Supreme Court, Houston Chronicle, May 1, 1977.

Kennedy, Tom. Yarbrough Disbarment Suit Grows, Houston Post, May 12, 1977.

Kennedy, Tom. Yarbrough's Oil, Banking Post Probed, Houston Post, June 9, 1977.

Kennedy, Tom. Yarbrough Wanted Witness Killed, Houston Post, June 25, 1977.

Kennedy, Tom. Yarbrough Allegedly Forged Auto Title, Houston Post, June 26, 1977.

Montgomery, Dave. Grand Jury Probes Yarbrough Charge, Dallas Times-Herald, June 28, 1977.

Montgomery, Dave. Elusive Entrepreneur Figures in Yarbrough Past, Dallas Times-Herald, June 29, 1977.

Mayes, Dave. Yarbrough Calls Probe Persecution, Austin American-Statesman, June 29, 1977.

Standefer, Jon & Tom Kennedy. Yarbrough, Accuser Talk to Grand Jury, Houston Post, June 29, 1977.

Sanders, Janet. State Panel to Consider Removal of Yarbrough, Houston Chronicle, June 30, 1977.

Montgomery, Dave. Tapes Quote Yarbrough Plotting Murder, Dallas Times-Herald, June 30, 1977.

Davis, Stewart. Yarbrough Indicted for Allegedly Forging Car Title, Then Lying, Dallas Morning News, June 30, 1977.

Griffis, Frank E. Don Yarbrough: the Plot Thickens, San Antonio Light, July 1, 1977.

Hunt, Gordon and Richard Fish. Legislators Draft Plan to Remove Yarbrough, Houston Chronicle, July 1, 1977.

Sanders, Janet. Yarbrough's Many Legal Troubles, Houston Chronicle, July 1, 1977.

Bonavita, Fred. Associate Justice Yarbrough Indicted, Houston Post, July 1, 1977.

Wood, Rob. Yarbrough's Confidence Gone With the Wind, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 2, 1977.

Calhoun, Ron. Panel; to Weigh Yarbrough Ouster Evidence, Dallas Times-Herald, July 2, 1977.

Davis, Stewart. Justice Due Hearing, Dallas Morning News, July 2, 1977.

Wood, Rob. Justice Yarbrough May Not Be Able to Fulfill Promise, Austin American-Statesman, July 2, 1977.

Bonavita, Fred. Yarbrough's Legal Troubles, Houston Post, July 2, 1977.

Freund, Carl. Yarbrough: Two Indictments and Serious Accusations, Dallas Morning News, July 3, 1977.

Davis, Stewart. Justice Seems Relieved After Perjury Indictment, Dallas Morning News, July 3, 1977.

Bonavita, Fred. Judicial Panel Takes First Steps in Yarbrough Probe, Houston Post, July 3, 1977.

Sanders, Janet. Some Court Records in Yarbrough Case Vanish, Houston Chronicle, July 3, 1977.

Montgomery, Dave. Yarbrough Painted as Saint, Sinner, Dallas Times-Herald, July 3, 1977.

West, Felton. Misty-eyed Yarbrough Confesses Wrongdoing, Houston Post, July 6, 1977.

Fish, Richard. Yarbrough Admits 'Sin' But Undecided About Resigning, Houston Chronicle, July 6, 1977.

Montgomery, Dave. Yarbrough Confesses, Keeps Post, Dallas Times-Herald, July 6, 1977.

Baker, Jim. Legislature Wants Yarbrough's Job, Austin American-Statesman, July 6, 1977.

Reynolds, Paula. Judge Yarbrough 'Worn Down by Press', Austin American-Statesman, July 8, 1977.

Fish, Richard. Impeachment? Legislators Ready Fallback Plan Against Yarbrough, Houston Chronicle, July 8, 1977.

Sanders, Janet. Donald Yarbrough: Ask Any 3 People About the Controversial Figure and the Answers Are Likely To Be Extreme, Houston Chronicle, July 10, 1977.

Morehead, Richard. Hearing to Study Yarbrough Ouster, Dallas Monring News, July 12, 1977.

Merkel, Dick. Legislators Adopt Yarbrough Rules, San Antonio Express, July 12, 1977.

Baker, Jim. Yarbrough Fights Charges, Austin American-Statesman, July 13, 1977.

Byers, Bo. Yarbrough Enters Plea of Not Guilty to Legislature, Houston Chronicle, July 13, 1977.

Morehead, Richard. Carr Trying to Stop 'Kangaroo Court', Dallas Morning News, July 13, 1977.

Standefer, Jon and Fred Bonavita. Justice Yarbrough Files Suit, Houston Post, July 14, 1977.

Merkel, Dick. Yarbrough Loses Bid to Stop Hearing, San Antonio Express, July 15, 1977.

Montgomery, Dave. Yarbrough Resigns Court Post, Dallas Times-Herald, July 15, 1977.

Kennedy, Tom. Yarbrough's Past as Contradictory, Elusive as His Testimony in Court, Houston Post, July 16, 1977.

Yarbrough Career Seen in Retrospect, Houston Post, July 16, 1977.

Highlights in the Career of Yarbrough, Houston Chronicle, July 17,1977

Heard, Robert. Wheels of Justice - for Don Yarbrough, They Ground Swiftly, Houston Chronicle, July 17, 1977.

Montgomery, Dave. Yarbrough Faces Trial Oct. 10; Vows To Enter Not Guilty Plea, Dallas Times-Herald, July 21, 1977.

West, Felton. Yarbrough Attempts to Block Disbarment Trial, Houston Post, Aug. 31, 1977.

West, Felton. Yarbrough Fights Disbarment, Houston Post, Sept. 2, 1977.

West, Felton. Yarbrough Offers to Quit State Bar, Houston Post, Sept. 3, 1977.

Sanders, Janet. Yarbrough Turns in Bar Resignation, Houston Chronicle, Sept. 3, 1977.

Baker, Jim. Yarbrough Resignation Accepted, Austin American-Statesman, Sept. 7, 1977.

Bonavita, Fred. Efforts to Quash Indictments Fail, Houston Post, Sept. 16, 1977.

Bonavita, Fred. Yarbrough Lawyer 'Leaning' to Venue Change, Houston Post, Oct. 11, 1977.

Kennedy, Tom. Ex-judge's Trial to Get 2 Top DAs, Houston Post, Jan. 22, 1978.

Davis, Stewart. Proceeding 'Sandbagged' Yarbrough Attorney Says, Dallas Morning News, Jan. 24, 1978.

Wallis, Michael. Yarbrough Lawyer Admits Client Lied to Grand Jury, Beaumont Enterprise Journal, Jan. 24, 1978.

Fish, Richard. Yarbrough Misdemeanor Lie Is Conceded, Houston Chronicle, Jan. 24, 1978.

Fly, Richard. Prosecution About To Rest Case Against Ex-Justice Yarbrough, Houston Chronicle, Jan. 26, 1978.

Bonavita, Fred. Yarbrough Seems Unruffled After Conviction on Perjury, Houston Post, Jan. 27, 1978.

Davis, Stewart. Jury Quickly Convicts Yarbrough of Lying, Dallas Morning News, Jan. 27, 1978.

Montgomery, Dave. Yarbrough Gets 5 Years in Prison, Dallas Times-Herald, Jan. 28, 1978.

Heard, Robert. Pride and the Downfall of a Texas Supreme Court Justice, Houston Chronicle, Jan. 29, 1978.

Yarbrough Sentenced to 2 to 5 Years, Houston Post, Mar. 31, 1978.

Ex-Justice Yarbrough Remains Free on Bond, Houston Chronicle, Apr. 12, 1979.

Lindsey, Roland. Don Yarbrough 'Taking It Easy', Austin Citizen, Mar. 17, 1980.

West, Felton. Hold Guarantees on Yarbrough Sought by DAs, Houston Post, June 15, 1980.

Lomax, Lucius. Yarbrough in Grenada, Lawyer Says, Houston Post, Aug. 16, 1980.

Lindsey, Roland. Yarbrough Attorneys Appeal Perjury Conviction, San Antonio Light, Apr. 10, 1981.

Szilagyi, Pete. Yarbrough's New Home May Be Paradise Lost, Austin American-Statesman, Sept. 6, 1981.

Szilagyi, Pete. Yarbrough's Passport Seized, Austin American-Statesman, Oct. 28, 1981.

State Requests Extradition of Yarbrough, Austin American-Statesman, Oct. 30, 1981.