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Colbert Coldwell (Caldwell) (1822-1892)

Associate Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1867-1869

Colbert Coldwell was born May 16, 1822 in Bedford County, Tennessee . As a young man he engaged in the Santa Fe trade for five years from 1840 to 1845 before returning to Tennessee to study law. In 1946 he was admitted to the bar and began practicing law in Arkansas. He later served as an Arkansas state legislator before leaving for Texas in 1859. He settled first in Mansfield, near Fort Worth, and then relocated to Navasota, where he established a plantation and had eleven slaves. Coldwell was married, and he and his wife had eight children.

In 1865, immediately following the Civil War, provisional governor A.J. Hamilton appointed Coldwell judge of the Seventh Judicial District. In 1867, when Texas came under federal military rule, he was appointed an associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court by Gen. Philip Sheridan. The same year he campaigned to be a delegate to the Texas Constitutional Convention of 1868-69; he was nearly killed by a white mob while speaking to a mostly black crowd during the campaign, but won the election and became a leader among the moderate republicans at the convention. He was removed from his seat on the bench in 1869 when radical republicans rose to power.

Following his supreme court service, Coldwell was appointed a U.S. customs collector at El Paso in 1876. After retiring from that post, he relocated with his family first to Winfield, Kansas and then to California. He died in Fresno on April 18, 1892. A grandson, also named Colbert Coldwell, co-founded the Coldwell Banker real estate company in San Francisco.


Harbert Davenport. History of the Supreme Court of the State of Texas (Austin, Texas: Southern Law Book Publishers, 1917).

Charles Christopher Jackson. Caldwell, Colbert, Handbook of Texas Online (last updated June 6, 2001).

James R. Norvell. The Reconstruction Courts of Texas, 1867-1873, 62 Southwestern Historical Quarterly (1958).

Extended bibliography

Speer, Ocie. Texas Jurists 54 (Austin, Texas: the author, 1936).