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William Arthur Morrison (1909-1980)

Judge, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, 1951-1976
Presiding Judge, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, 1955-1961

William Arthur Morrison was born March 24, 1909, in Cameron, Texas, where his father was an attorney and his mother was a teacher. Morrison attended Texas A&M University for a year before transferring to The University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a law degree in 1933. He was admitted to the Texas bar the same year.

Upon completion of his studies, Morrison returned to Cameron and was elected county attorney for Milam County in 1933. The following year, Gov. Miriam "Ma" Ferguson appointed him district attorney of the Twentieth Judicial District of Texas. In 1938 he was elected to the position. That year he was married after a whirlwind courtship; his new bride became his secretary. Eventually the couple divorced, and Morrison married a second time. He was the father of a daughter.

Morrison resigned his position as district attorney in March 1942 to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was assigned to Europe, worked as a special agent in counter-intelligence, and was at Normandy on D-Day and Paris on the day of liberation. Following the war Morrison testified in the trials of seventeen Nazi collaborators that each resulted in the death penalty.

Following his discharge from the Army in 1945, Morrison practiced law in New York City for a year before returning to Texas. In 1948 he was elected judge of the Twentieth Judicial District of Texas. He held the position until 1950, when he was elected a judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Morrison served on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for twenty-six years, from 1951 until his retirement in 1976. He became the court's youngest presiding judge in 1955, at the age of forty-one. He served as presiding judge from 1955 to 1961. During his many years on the criminal court of appeals, it is estimated that he heard more than 26,000 cases.

Morrison served in leadership positions of the state bar and had been a president of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association. Off the bench, he enjoyed woodcutting, and was involved in the American Legion Boys' State. Morrison died in Austin on November 11, 1980, at the age of seventy-one, and was buried in the Texas State Cemetery.


W. A. Morrison, 44 Texas Bar Journal 240 (February 1981).

William Morrison, Texas State Cemetery (accessed December 18, 2006).