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William Pitt Ballinger (1825-1888)

Associate Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1874

William Pitt Ballinger was born in Barboursville, Kentucky, on September 25, 1825, into a family in which political life was a tradition. His grandfather had been an early settler in Kentucky, and served as the first clerk of Knox County and as a Kentucky state senator. His father spent much of his life as the clerk of courts in Knox County and served as a member of the Kentucky Legislature. Ballinger attended public schools and received two years of college at St. Mary's College near Lebanon, Kentucky, followed by training in his father's office. In 1843 he moved to Galveston at the invitation of his uncle, Judge James Love, and studied law in his office.

Ballinger served in the Mexican War, rising to the rank of adjutant of Albert Sidney Johnson's regiment. He was admitted to the bar in 1847 and joined the practice of Jones and Butler, the largest law practice in Galveston. In 1850 he was appointed U.S. attorney for the District of Texas.

Ballinger's reputation as a leading trial lawyer and his expertise in tort and railroad law were known nationally, and among his clients was railroad magnate Jay Gould, who in 1881 traveled to Galveston in his private railcar to meet with Ballinger for legal advice.

William Pitt Ballinger was appointed to the Texas Supreme Court in 1874, but he declined the position preferring to stay in private practice. He died on January 20, 1888.


Barr, Alwyn. Revolutionary Changes in Civil War Texas, The Texas Heritage 86. Ben Procter and Archie P. McDonald, eds. (St. Louis, Missouri: Forum Press, 1980).

Moretta, John Anthony. William Pitt Ballinger: Texas Lawyer, Southern Statesman, 1825-1888 (Austin, Texas: Texas State Historical Association, 2000).

Extended bibliography

Biographical Encyclopedia of Texas 103 (New York, New York: Southern Publishing Co., 1880).

Brown, John Henry. Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas 376 (Austin, Texas: L.E. Daniell, 189-?).

Hill, James Lyle. The Life of Judge William Pitt Ballinger (Master's thesis, University of Texas, 1937).

Kittrell, Norman Goree. Governors Who Have Been, and Other Public Men of Texas 63 (Houston, Texas: Dealy-Adey-Elgin Co., 1921).

Lynch, James Daniel. The Bench and Bar of Texas 412 (St. Louis, Missouri: Nixon-Jones Printing Co., 1885).

Speer, Ocie. Texas Jurists 72 (Austin, Texas: the author, 1936).

The Encyclopedia of the New West 378. William S. Speer, ed. (Marshall, Texas: The United States Biographical Publishing Co., 1881).

Texas Bar Association. Annual Proceedings 65 (Austin, Texas: The Association, 1889).

King, Richard C. William Pitt Ballinger: Texas Bibliophile, Texas Libraries (Winter, 1969).

Curtsinger, Louis C. The Career of Judge William P. Ballinger, 18 West Texas Historical Association Yearbook 54 (Oct. 1942).

Additional information available in Southwestern Historical Quarterly as follow:
Volume 5, page 128
Volume 11, page 208
Volume 26, page 60, 161
Volume 27, page 165, 242 passim, 311
Volume 29, page 70, 307
Volume 43, page 365n, 486n
Volume 47, page 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 173
Volume 49, page 94, 537
Volume 51, page 18, 256, 258, 380n
Volume 56, page 289
Volume 57, page 388
Volume 62, page 149n, 156
Volume 65, page 6, 7, 8, 609
Volume 68, page 15n, 16, 22, 25
Volume 73, page 450
Volume 74, page 113
Volume 76, page 374
Volume 78, page 73n
Volume 81, page 418n
Volume 82, page 245, 258

Diary. Archives Division, Texas State Library (Austin, Texas).

William Pitt Ballinger Papers. Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas (Austin, Texas).