Visit The University of Texas homepage

Thomas Jefferson Devine (1820-1890)

Associate Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1874-1875

Born to Irish parents in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on February 28, 1820, Thomas Jefferson Devine left home at an early age and worked briefly in New York City before moving to Tallahassee, Florida at the age of sixteen, where he worked as a mercantile clerk. Three years later, in 1838, he relocated to Woodville, Mississippi, where he studied law for two years. In the fall of 1840 he began formal law studies at Transylvania University at Lexington, Kentucky. Following his graduation in 1843, Devine obtained his law license in Kentucky.

In 1844 Devine moved to La Grange, Texas, married, and settled in San Antonio, where he opened a law practice. The following year he was elected city attorney. He held that position until being elected district judge of the Bexar district in 1851 and served in that capacity until 1861. That year he participated in the Secession Convention and served on the Public Safety Committee until being appointed a judge for the Confederate Western District of Texas. In 1864 he represented the Confederate States on a successful diplomatic mission to Mexico City regarding cotton transport.

Following the war Devine moved to Mexico in order to avoid taking the oath of allegiance to the federal government but returned to San Antonio a few months later. Upon his return was arrested on high treason charges, one of only three individuals arrested for treason during the Civil War, and was imprisoned in Fort Jackson Barracks in New Orleans. While incarcerated he became ill with pneumonia and was released in January 1866, four months after his arrest, without a trial. He was pardoned and his citizenship was restored on June 17, 1867.

In 1874 Gov. Coke appointed Devine an associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court. However, due to the serious illness of his wife and his preference for private practice, he resigned the following year. From 1881 to 1882, Devine served on the board of regents for the University of Texas, which opened in 1883. He died at his San Antonio home on March 16, 1890 at the age of seventy.

Notable opinions

Halloran v. T. & N. O. R. R. Co., 40 Texas reports 465 (Tex. 1874) (dismissing personal injury action of railroad employee since Act allowing affidavit of insufficient funds to cover costs did not apply retrospectively, and law in force at time of appeal, requiring a bond to cover costs thus governed so that plaintiff's failure to file such a bond was critical to giving lower courts jurisdiction).

Murchison v. Holly, 40 Texas reports 439 (Tex. 1874) (dismissing defendant's appeal in debt-satisfaction case where plaintiff was held to have properly paid debt by using Confederate currency, because appeal stated no points of error).


In Memoriam, 77 Texas reports v (1890).

Lynch, James Daniel. The Bench and Bar of Texas 302 (St. Louis, Missouri: Nixon-Jones Printing Co., 1885).

Russell, Yancey L. Devine, Thomas Jefferson, Handbook of Texas Online (last updated June 6, 2001).

Extended bibliography

Biographical Encyclopedia of Texas 108 (New York, New York: Southern Publishing Co., 1880).

Brown, John Henry. Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas 220 (Austin, Texas: L. E. Daniell, 189?).

Daniell, Lewis E. Types of Successful Men of Texas 111 (Austin, Texas: E. Von Boeckmann, 1890).

Huson, Hobart. District Judges of Refugio County 72 (Refugio, Texas: Refugio Timely Remarks, 1941).

Johnson, Sidney Smith. Texans Who Wore the Gray 105 ( Tyler?, Texas: 1907).

Lynch, James Daniel. The Bench and Bar of Texas 302 (St. Louis, Missouri: Nixon-Jones Printing Co., 1885).

Speer, Ocie. Texas Jurists 76 (Austin, Texas: the author, 1936).

The Encyclopedia of the New West 597. William S. Speer, ed. (Marshall, Texas: United States Biographical Publishing Co., 1881).

Additional information available in Southwestern Historical Quarterly as follow:
Volume 51, page 182
Volume 62, page 156, 328
Volume 68, page 12, 28, 468
Volume 70, page 569, 630, 639
Volume 73, page 472

In Memoriam, 77 Texas reports v (1890).

Brown, Frank. Annals of Travis County and of the City of Austin 21:52. Archives Division, Texas State Library (Austin, Texas).

Thomas Jefferson Devine Papers. Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas (Austin, Texas).