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Reuben Reid Gaines (1836-1914)

Associate Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1886-1894
Chief Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1894-1911

Reuben Reid Gaines was born October 30, 1836 in Sumter County, Alabama, to a prosperous slave-holding family. He attended the University of Alabama, graduated in 1855, and attended William and Mary College before transferring to Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee, where he earned his law degree in 1857. He practiced law in Selma, Alabama from 1858 to 1861. He was married in 1859, and he and his wife had a daughter.

When the Civil War broke out, Gaines joined the Confederate Army and served under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston until the surrender of Johnston's troops in May 1865. The following year Gaines moved with his wife to Clarksville, Texas, where he practiced law and became involved in Democratic party politics. He was elected the first judge of the Sixth Judicial District in 1876, was reelected in 1880, and served until 1884. Then he returned to private law practice in Paris, Texas.

Reuben Gaines' supreme court service began in 1886 when Gov. Ireland appointed him to fill Sawnie Robertson's unexpired term as associate justice. Two years later he was elected to a six-year term in the position, and was reelected in 1894. When chief justice John Stayton died in July of that year, Gov. Hogg appointed Gaines to fill the position. He was elected chief justice in 1900 and 1906, and held the seat until 1911 when he retired due to failing health. Altogether he served some twenty-five years uninterrupted on the Texas Supreme Court, from the age of fifty until he was seventy-five. He wrote hundreds of opinions, spanning volumes sixty-five to 103 of the Texas Reports. Gaines was known as a nonpartisan and for his popularity among lawyers, even though he may have taken a nap on occasion during court arguments as he grew older and his health declined. He reportedly made a daily practice of changing from his shoes to carpet slippers when he arrived at work, and would request that Alec Phillips, the court porter, bring his shoes to him promptly at five o'clock each afternoon, thus signaling the end of the working day for the judges.

Following his retirement in January 1911, Gaines resided in Austin 's Driskill Hotel. He died in Austin on October 13, 1914, just before his seventy-eighth birthday, of complications from a stroke.


In Memoriam, 107 Texas reports 657 (1916).

Campbell, Randolph B. Gaines, Reuben Reid, Handbook of Texas Online (last updated June 6, 2001).

Wynn, Leila Clark. A History of the Civil Courts in Texas, 60 Southwestern Historical Quarterly 10-11.

Extended bibliography

Personnel of the Texas State Government 81. Lewis E. Daniell, compiler (Austin, Texas: the author, 1889).

Johnson, Francis White. 2 A History of Texas and Texans 1118 (Chicago, Illinois & New York, New York: The American Historical Society, 1914).

Johnson, Sidney Smith. Texans Who Wore the Gray 108 (Tyler?, Texas: 1907).

Neville, Alexander White. The History of Lamar County 204 (Paris, Texas: The North Texas Publishing Co., 1937).

Raines, Cadwell Walton. 1 Year Book for Texas 160 (Austin, Texas: Gammel Book Co., 1902-1903).

Speer, Ocie. Texas Jurists 90 (Austin, Texas: the author, 1936).

The Encyclopedia of the New West 254. William S. Speer, ed. (Marshall, Texas: The United States Biographical Publishing Co., 1881).

Reminiscences of the Boys in Gray 249. Mamie Yeary, compiler (Dallas, Texas: Smith & Lamar Publishing House, 1912).

Additional information available in Southwestern Historical Quarterly as follow:
Volume 18, page 338
Volume 60, page 10, 18

In Memoriam, 107 Texas reports 657 (1916).