Visit The University of Texas homepage

Peter W. Gray (1819-1874)

Associate Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1874

Peter W. Gray was born December 12, 1819 in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He moved to Texas in 1838 with his family to join his father, William Fairfax Gray, who had arrived in Houston in 1835. The elder Gray was an attorney, had served as clerk of the House of Representatives of the Republic in 1837, and was district attorney of Houston. Peter Gray studied law in his father's law office.

Gray served as a captain the Texas army and fought in a campaign against the Shawnee Indians in 1839. In 1841 Gray's father died, and Sam Houston appointed him to his father's position of district attorney of Houston; he served in the position until annexation. He served as a second-lieutenant in the Milam Guards and fought during the Mexican invasions of 1842. He was married in 1843.

Following annexation, Gray served in the First Legislature of the new state of Texas. As a legislator, he was the principal author of the Practice Act of 1846, which reformed and clarified the system of pleading and procedure in the state's courts. He was a proponent of education, was a founder of the Houston Lyceum, which became the Houston Public Library, and was said to have had one of the best law libraries in Texas. He served in the Senate of the Fourth Legislature (1854) and then as judge of the Houston District until the Civil War broke out.

Gray, who had been a proponent of annexation, nonetheless was in attendance at the Secession Convention, where he voted in favor of secession. He represented Houston in the first Confederate House of Representatives, serving on several committees. He lost a bid for reelection in 1863, became an aide to Gen. John B. Magruder, and served in the Battle of Galveston. Following the war, Gray returned to Houston and resumed his successful law practice. He was elected the first president of the Houston Bar Association in 1870.

Gray was appointed associate justice of the supreme court by Gov. Richard Coke in February 1874 to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of William P. Ballinger. His health was failing, however, and he resigned the position in April, just two months after his appointment. He died of tuberculosis October 3, 1874 in Houston, at the age of fifty-five. He is buried in Houston's Glenwood Cemetery.


Cutrer, Thomas. Gray, Peter W., Handbook of Texas Online (last updated June 6, 2001).

Lynch, James Daniel. The Bench and Bar of Texas 114-115 (St. Louis, Missouri: Nixon-Jones Printing Co., 1885).

Preface, 40 Texas reports v (1874).

Extended bibliography

Davenport , Jewette Harbert. The History of the Supreme Court of the State of Texas 115 (Austin, Texas: Southern Law Book Publishers, 1917).

Freemasons. Houston , Tex. Holland Lodge, No. 1. Lodge of Sorrow in Memory of Peter W. Gray, Past Grand Master (Houston?, Texas: 1874?).

Fulmore, Zachary Taylor. A History and Geography of Texas as Told in County Names 198 (Austin, Texas: Steck, 1915).

History of Texas Together with a Biographical History of the Cities of Houston and Galveston 599 (Chicago, Illinois: Lewis Publishing Co., 1895).

Lynch, James Daniel. The Bench and Bar of Texas 114 (St. Louis, Missouri: Nixon-Jones Printing Co., 1885).

Speer, Ocie. Texas Jurists 74 (Austin, Texas: the author, 1936).

Thrall, Homer S. A Pictorial History of Texas 546 (St. Louis, Missouri: N. D. Thompson, 1885).

Kelly, Hugh Rice. Peter Gray, The Houston Lawyer 29 (Jan. 1976).

Additional information available in Southwestern Historical Quarterly as follow:
Volume 38, page 279, 292, 300
Volume 39, page 40
Volume 47, page 230
Volume 48, page 41, 289, 381
Volume 49, page 98, 541
Volume 51, page 238
Volume 55, page 462n
Volume 60, page 257, 258
Volume 62, page 331
Volume 63, page 134
Volume 65, page 97
Volume 68, page 16, 438
Volume 80, page 225
Volume 81, page 274n

Preface, 40 Texas reports v (1874).

2 Biographies of Leading Texans 233. Archives Division, Texas State Library (Austin, Texas).