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James Pinckney Hart (1904-1987)

Associate Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1947-1950

James Pinckney Hart was born November 11, 1904 in Texas' capital city. Hart's ancestors had arrived in the area in 1845, and he was a fourth-generation Austinite. He attended Austin public schools and graduated from Austin High School before entering The University of Texas. Majoring in history and taking law courses as electives, Hart graduated from UT in 1925 with highest honors. He then entered Harvard Law School, where he served on the Harvard Law Review and graduated with honors in 1928.

Following law school, Hart worked in a New York law firm for a year before returning to Austin and practicing law in the firm of his father, James H. Hart. Hart was married in 1929, and he and his wife had five children. He served as Travis County district attorney from 1933 to 1937, and then served several months as a special judge for the Fifty-Third District Court before working as an assistant attorney general as head of the oil and gas division from 1939 to 1941. While in that position he argued several cases successfully before the United States Supreme Court.

In 1947, the forty-two year old Hart was appointed an associate justice of the Texas supreme court by Gov. Beauford Jester. He was then elected to a six-year term on the court. He was remembered for his clear and concise opinions on the court, and as a man of learning and integrity. He served three years of his term before being selected as the first chancellor of The University of Texas system, a new position created by The University's board of regents in 1950.

Hart served as UT chancellor for three years, resigning in 1953 to return to private practice. He was extremely active in civic affairs, serving in leadership roles in organizations that included the Texas Philosophical Society, the Texas Fine Arts Commission, and the Austin Red Cross. He retired from legal practice in the fall of 1986.

James P. Hart died in Austin May 18, 1987, at the age of eighty-two. He was buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.

Notable opinions

Hart's opinion in Worden v. Worden, 148 Texas reports 356 (1949), an early recognition of the rights of married women, involved a custody disagreement between separated, but still married, parents. At that time a woman could not maintain a suit against her husband in Texas. Hart held that a suit may be maintained by a wife against her husband for the welfare of the child.

Little Rock Mfg. Co. v. Dunn, 148 Texas reports 197 (1949).

Railroad Commission v. Sterling Oil and Refining Co. (147 Texas reports 547).

Heinatz v. Allen (147 Texas reports 512).


Memorial Service for the Honorable James P. Hart. The Supreme Court of Texas, April 25, 1988.

James Pinckney Hart, Texas Cemetery website (visited September 19, 206).

Extended bibliography

Additional information available in Southwestern Historical Quarterly as follow:
Volume 44, page 303
Volume 54, page 231, 402, 480
Volume 55, page 306, 409, 439, 490, 494, 535
Volume 56, page 125, 313, 458, 552, 554
Volume 60, page 19
Volume 62, page 148n, 262, 437, 438
Volume 63, page 620
Volume 67, page 539
Volume 74, page 46

Additional information available in Texas Bar Journal as follow:
Volume 10, page 453
Volume 13, page 590
Volume 14, page 498
Volume 24, page 215, 730

Byers, Bo. Court Justice Hart 'Overwhelmed' at Appointment as UT Chancellor, Austin Statesman, July 28, 1950.

Duncan, Dawson. Hart Named University's Top Officer, Dallas Morning News, July 28, 1950.

U.T.'s Hart to Rule Far-flung Empire, Austin American-Statesman, Nov. 12, 1950.

Morehead, Richard M. University of Texas Installs Chancellor, Dallas Morning News, Nov. 16,1950.

Hart to Vacate University Post, Dallas Morning News, Sept. 11, 1953.

Morehead, Richard M. James P. Hart Ready for U.S. Senate Campaign, Dallas Morning News, Aug. 11, 1956.

Duncan, Dawson. Hart Announces He Will Run as Loyalist for Senate Seat, Dallas Morning News, Aug. 31, 1956.

Duncan, Dawson. Hart Launches His Campaign for Senate, Dallas Morning News, Oct. 4, 1956.

Ford, Jon. Jim Hart Figured Wrong, San Antonio Express, Apr. 16, 1957.