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Wilmer St. John. Garwood (1896-1987)

Associate Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1948-1958

Wilmer St. John Garwood was born December 15, 1896, in Bastrop, Texas. His father, H.M Garwood, was a Bastrop county judge, served in both the Texas House and Senate, was a member of the University of Texas Board of Regents, and was an early partner in the Houston law firm, Baker, Botts, Parker and Garwood.

W. St. John Garwood graduated from St. Thomas High School in Houston in 1908 and from Georgetown University, Washington, DC., with a B.A. degree in 1917. He studied law for a year at The University of Texas and was admitted to the Texas bar in 1919, and then studied law at Harvard University, where he received a LL.B. in 1922. He served as a first lieutenant in the Texas National Guard from 1918 to 1923. He worked as a lawyer for Texaco in New York from 1922 to 1923, and was admitted to the New York Bar in 1923.

Returning to Texas, Garwood practiced law in his father's firm from 1924 to 1928. He was married in 1927; the couple had two sons. (Will Garwood would follow his father's footsteps, serving as a Texas supreme court justice from 1979 to 1980.) Garwood worked as an attorney for Standard Oil in Buenos Aires from 1929 to 1933 before returning to Texas. He practiced at the Houston firm of Andrews, Kelley, Kurth and Campbell from 1934 to 1942. During World War II he served as a lieutenant commander in naval intelligence from 1942 to 1945. Following the war he practiced law privately in Houston.

Following the death of Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice James P. Alexander in 1948, Gov. Jester appointed associate justice J. E. Hickman to fill the post, and Garwood was appointed associate justice. He was elected to the position later that year and reelected in 1952. When Hickman became ill, Garwood served from time to time as acting chief justice during his absences. He was remembered by his peers as being articulate and having a quick wit and dry sense of humor, and his opinions as scholarly and painstakingly researched.

At the time Garwood served on the court, the justices occupied offices on the third and fourth floors of the Capitol, while an inadequate library was located on the second floor. The building was not air conditioned. Garwood was instrumental in laying the groundwork for the construction of a new supreme court building for Texas. When the justices moved into the new building in 1959, they wore black robes for the first time in Texas history, signifying the new era.

Following his ten years of supreme court service, Garwood retired and became associated with the Austin law firm of Graves, Dougherty, Hearon and Moody. He was a visiting professor of law at Southern Methodist University and at The University of Texas. He was a founder of St. John's School in Houston and a trustee of the University of Texas Law Foundation, He served eight years as president of the Texas Civil Judicial Council, where he supported the creation of the Texas Judicial Qualifications Commission and mandatory retirement of judges at the age of seventy-five.

Garwood died January 15, 1987 at the age of ninety and was buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.

Notable opinions

Garwood's most notable opinion was considered at the time of his death to be Luttes v. State, 324 S. W. 2d 167 (Tex. 1958), concerning the title to some 3,400 acres of land between the mainland and Padre Island. The title emanated from a Mexican grant; Garwood's experience in South America and fluency in Spanish was a great asset to the court in the case.


In Memoriam: Honorable W. St. John Garwood, Sr. The Supreme Court of Texas, May 2, 1988.

Wilmer Garwood (visited September 13, 2006).

Extended bibliography

Gallery-Wilmer St. John Garwood, Harvard Law School Record, Mar. 16, 1949.

Additional information available in Southwestern Historical Quarterly as follow:
Volume 60, page 19
Volume 68, page 112

Additional information available in Texas Bar Journal as follow:
Volume 11, page 165, 254
Volume 21, page 540, 717
Volume 23, page 410, 707
Volume 26, page 369
Volume 27, page 949
Volume 28, page 725
Volume 30, page 351
Volume 32, page 502
Volume 33, page 86
Volume 35, page 505
Volume 36, page 363
Volume 40, page 126

Thornton, William M. Houstonian New Justice, Dallas Morning News, Jan. 8, 1948.

Grimes, Roy. St. John Garwood Takes Supreme Court Oath, Houston Post, Jan. 15, 1948.

Justice Garwood to Give up Post, Dallas Morning News, Jan. 14, 1958.

Gardner, William A. Garwood Will Leave Bench at Term End, Houston Post, Jan. 14, 1958.

Green, Charles E. The 9th Column, Austin American-Statesman, Jan. 15, 1958.

Morehead, Richard M. Ability, Wit Leave High Court, Dallas Morning News, Jan. 18, 1958.

Garwood Retirement is Texas' Loss, Houston Chronicle, Jan. 1, 1959.

Philosophical Food for Thought About Texas Heritage and Goals, Houston Post, Dec. 12, 1960.

Marsh, Charmayne. Garwood Inherits Regency, Daily Texan, Jan. 29, 1963.

Duncan, Dawson. Ex-Justice Rejected as Regent with UT, Dallas Morning News, Feb. 20, 1963.

Byers, Bo. Senate Faces Garwood Crisis, Houston Chronicle, Feb. 20, 1963.

Conner, Robert E. Brave Fights in Lee and Bastrop Brought Honor to Garwood Name, Giddings Star, Feb. 28, 1963.

Mayer, Margaret. Garwood Denies 1-Worlder Bent, Dallas Times Herald, Mar. 3, 1963.

Autobiography. Office of the Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Texas (Austin, Texas).