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Harry Newton Graves (1877-1957)

Judge, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, 1937-1951
Presiding Judge, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, 1951-1955

Harry Newton Graves was born April 4, 1877, in La Vernia, Texas, east of San Antonio. His family moved to Georgetown in 1884, where Newton attended school and got a job as a printer's devil at the Georgetown Democrat when he was just twelve years old. He saved enough money to attend Southwestern University, and worked his way through school as a typesetter, pressman, and assistant editor for the Williamson County Sun. He also worked as a stenographer in the law office of Robert A. John and read law at night with John's assistance. He was admitted to the bar in 1896 at the age of nineteen.

Graves practiced law briefly in Sherman before returning to Georgetown, where he was elected city attorney in 1898. He served three terms as Georgetown city attorney and three terms as Williamson County attorney. He established a law practice with D.W. Wilcox, who became his brother-in-law when Graves married in 1908; the two practiced together for some thirty-five years. Graves assisted Dan Moody in the prosecution of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s; these cases attracted national notoriety, sparked violence, and required great courage on the part of prosecutors.

Graves served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1927 to 1937, chairing the committee that studied the state's administrative reorganization and advocated reforms; this committee became known as the Graves Committee. He also wrote the bill that established the Texas Highway Patrol and several oil and gas conservation bills, and was an active Prohibitionist.

Graves resigned from the Legislature in 1937 to accept an appointment to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals following the death of O.S. Lattimore. He was subsequently elected to the position and served on the court until January 1, 1955, when he retired due to poor health. From 1951 until his retirement he served as the court's presiding judge. Graves was described in an Austin American editorial as dignified, fair, and courageous.

Harry N. Graves died at his home in Georgetown on December 3, 1957 after suffering a heart attack while on a hunting trip. He was buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.


Harry N. Graves, 21 Texas Bar Journal 136 (February 1958).

Harry N. Graves, Texas State Cemetery (accessed December 1, 2006).

Forrest E. Ward. Graves, Harry N., Handbook of Texas Online (last updated June 6, 2001).