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Thomas Benton Greenwood (1872-1946)

Associate Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1918-1934

Thomas Benton Greenwood was born July 2, 1872, in Louisburg, North Carolina. His father, an attorney, had come to Texas from Mississippi in the 1850s and settled in Palestine. Greenwood attended Palestine public schools and then studied at The University of Texas from approximately 1888 to 1890, graduating with a B.S. degree. Following his graduation, he returned to Palestine and read law in his father's office at the firm of Reagan, Greenwood & Gooch. Greenwood received his license to practice law on his twenty-first birthday, July 2, 1893, and went into practice with his father. Following his father's death in 1900, Greenwood practiced alone. In 1907 he was appointed to The University of Texas Board of Regents, and served until 1911. He was married in 1908.

In 1918 Gov. W. P. Hobby appointed Thomas Greenwood associate justice of the Texas supreme court. Greenwood was reelected to the position three times. He was particularly known for his important work in oil and gas law, and he was also an authority on negligence law and real property law.

Greenwood declined to run for reelection in 1934, and went into civil law practice in Austin with former governor Dan Moody and former district attorney J. B. Robertson. He continued practicing law until his death from a heart attack on March 26, 1946 in Austin. He was buried in the Texas State Cemetery.

Notable opinions

Greenwood's opinions from Grubb v. McAfee (109 Texas reports 527) to Sheffield v. Hogg (124 Texas reports 290) encompass the period of development of oil and gas law and constitute the foundations of oil and gas law in Texas. Among his opinions on the subject, Stephens County v. Mid-Kansas Oil & Gas Company (113 Texas reports 160); Sheffield v. Hogg (124 Texas reports 290); and W. T. Waggoner Estate v. Sigler Oil Co. (118 Texas reports 509) are considered the most notable. Stephens defined the nature of the estate created by the ordinary oil and gas lease, stabilized the lease and the estate created by it, and is regarded as the bedrock of oil and gas law in Texas, and Sheffield-Hogg clearly defined the nature of the royalty interest.


In Memoriam, 146 Texas reports 623 (1948).

Garwood, W. St. John & Parton, Virginia. Greenwood, Thomas Benton, Handbook of Texas Online (last updated June 6, 2001).

Johnston, V. M. A Texas Portrait: Thomas Benton Greenwood, 24(3) Texas Bar Journal 226-228, 280-281 (March, 1961).

Extended bibliography

Additional information available in Southwestern Historical Quarterly as follow:
Volume 59, page 498
Volume 60, page 18
Volume 68, page 478

Duncan, Dawson. Judge Thomas Greenwood and Sister Die in Austin, Dallas Morning News, Mar. 27, 1946.

In Memoriam, 146 Texas reports 623 (1948).