Visit The University of Texas homepage

John Frank ("Jack") Onion, Jr. (1925-2018)

Judge, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, 1967-1970
Presiding Judge, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, 1971-1988

John Frank "Jack" Onion, Jr. was born March 27, 1925, in San Antonio, Texas. His grandfather, J. F. Onion, had been a member of the Texas legislature for many years, and his father, John F. "Pete" Onion, had been a longtime district judge in San Antonio. Onion's identical twin brother, James C. Onion, also became an attorney.

Onion served in the United States Marine Corps during World War II, and was stationed in the Pacific. Following the war, he attended The University of Texas School of Law, where he was known as a serious, conscientious student and president of the senior law class in 1950. He earned a J.D. and was licensed to practice in 1950. He married and became the father of three children. A son, John Frank Onion III, practices law in San Antonio.

Onion began his judicial career with two years of service as a justice of the peace in Bexar County. He was an assistant district attorney for four years before becoming, at the age of thirty-one, the youngest elected district judge in Texas. He served in that position for ten years.

Onion became a judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 1967, after defeating the incumbent, W.T. McDonald, in the May 1966 Democratic primary. He served as a judge on the court until 1970, when he became the Court's first presiding judge to be elected by Texas voters. He was re-elected to two more six-year terms, in 1976 and 1982, and served on the court for more than two decades before retiring in December 1988, at the age of sixty-two.

Following his retirement from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Judge Onion has sat by designation on various Texas courts, including the notable 1994 case against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison for official misconduct and records tampering.

Onion died September 2, 2018 at the age of ninety-three, and was buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.


Onion, John F., Jr. vertical file. Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.