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John L. Hill, Jr. (1923-2007)

Chief Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1985-1988

John L. Hill, Jr. was born October 9, 1923 in Breckenridge, Texas. He earned an LL.B., graduating with honors, from The University of Texas School of Law in 1947, was admitted to the Texas bar the same year, and went into practice as a trial lawyer in Houston.

Hill was Texas' secretary of state from 1966 to 1968. He served as the state's attorney general from 1973 to 1979. He ran for governor against Republican candidate William P. Clements in 1978 and was narrowly defeated. Clements became Texas' first Republican governor since Reconstruction.

John Hill was elected chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court in 1984 and took office in January 1985. Although Hill had raised $1 million to support his campaign, he felt it was scandalous that the system allowed extensive contributions from lawyers who may have cases before the judges, and believed that the acceleration of campaign financing for justices had become "outrageous." He resigned from office in January 1988 to lead a crusade to abolish the elective process for supreme court justices in favor of a combined appointment/election process.

Hill received The University of Texas distinguished alumnus award in 1991 and UT Law School's lifetime achievement award in 1997. In 2004 the UT Law School established the John L. Hill Trial Advocacy Center in his honor.

At the time of his death in 2007, Hill was a shareholder at the Texas law firm of Winstead P.C. Previously, he headed the litigation department at the Houston-based law firm of Locke Liddell Sapp L.L.P., and was a name partner in Hill, Brown, Knonzer, & Abraham.


Judicial Selection Reform: A Priority for Texas, interview with John L. Hill, Jr. in The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, December 2005.

Woodbury, Richard. Is Texas Justice for Sale? The state's top judge resigns to fight for reform. TIME, January 11, 1988.

In Memoriam: The Honorable John L. Hill, 1923–2007 (accessed July 10, 2007)