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Joe Robert Greenhill (1914-2011)

Associate Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1957-1971
Chief Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1972-1982

Joe Robert Greenhill was born July 14, 1914 in Houston. Following graduation from Houston public schools, he attended The University of Texas, where he earned B.A. and B.B.A. degrees in 1936 and an LL.B. degree in 1939, each with highest honors. He began practicing law in Houston and joined the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II, serving in the Pacific. In 1948 Greenhill became first assistant attorney general for the state of Texas, and helped argue the landmark case, Sweatt v. Painter, before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1950 he co-founded the Austin law firm, Graves, Dougherty & Greenhill, where he practiced until 1957.

Greenhill's long and distinguished career on the bench began in 1957, when Gov. Price Daniel appointed him an associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court. Greenhill won election to the position the following year. He served as an associate justice until 1972, when he was appointed chief justice. He served as chief justice for ten years before retiring in 1982. While on the bench he labored to bring about a Texas constitutional amendment to give the court of civil appeals criminal jurisdiction.

Following his retirement from the bench, Greenhill served in leadership positions in numerous legal organizations and worked to change laws that discouraged mediation and arbitration, which has reduced the backlog of cases and given low-income citizens better access to the judicial system. He also served as the director emeritus of the Texas Bar Foundation and president of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society. He lived in Austin until his death on February 11, 2011 at the age of ninety-six. He was buried in the Texas State Cemetery.


Greenhill, Joe R. (visited September 21, 2006).

Greenhill, Joe R. Texas State Cemetery (visited September 21, 2006).

Extended bibliography

Additional information available in Texas Bar Journal as follow:
Volume 16, page 529
Volume 20, page 619
Volume 27, page 323
Volume 28, page 21, 438
Volume 31, page 1036
Volume 32, page 746
Volume 33, page 970
Volume 35, page 297, 877, 999
Volume 36, page 768, 775
Volume 42, page 303, 379, 1022

McReynolds, Michael. Greenhill Gives Views on High Court, 12 Texas Law Forum 10 (Sept. 27, 1971).

Morehead, Richard M. Austin Man Named to High Court, Dallas Morning News, Aug. 28, 1957.

Greenhill Tries for Court Chief, Austin American, Sept. 22, 1971.

State Judge Will Seek Top Position, Corpus Christi Caller, Sept. 22, 1971.

Greenhill Seeking Chief Justice Post, Houston Post, Sept. 22, 1971.

Smith to Name Greenhill Chief Justice, Corpus Christi Caller, Sept. 20, 1972.

Governor Smith to Appoint Greenhill Chief Justice, Dallas Morning News, Sept. 20, 1972.

Greenhill Takes Post on Court, Austin American, Oct. 5, 1972.

Wiese, Art. Joe R. Greenhill Takes Over as Texas 'Top Jurist', San Antonio Light (Texas Star), Feb. 25, 1973.

Texas Cowboys Close to the Heart of Chief Justice, Austin American-Statesman, Oct. 19, 1974.

Chief Justice to Receive UT Honor, Austin Citizen, June 16, 1977.