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John Birdsall (1802-1839)

Chief Justice , Supreme Court of the Republic of Texas, 1838

John Birdsall was born in 1802 in Greene, Chenango County, New York, and received his legal training in his home state. He was appointed circuit judge of the Eighth District in New York in 1824 and was a member of the New York Senate from 1832-33. He moved to Texas in 1837 and began a law partnership with Thomas J. Gazley in Harrisburg (now Houston). There he met and became friends with Sam Houston.

Houston appointed Birdsall Attorney General of the Republic on August 15, 1837, and Birdsall held that post until Houston appointed him chief justice pro tempore of the Supreme Court of the Republic following the death of Chief Justice James Collingsworth in July 1838. The Senate, however, did not confirm his appointment. Birdsall served as chief justice for approximately one month from November to December, never sat at any session of the court, and therefore wrote no opinion. He went into legal practice with Sam Houston in January 1839 but died of yellow fever on July 22 of that year and was buried in Glendale Cemetery, Harrisburg.


Ericson, Joe E. Judges of the Republic of Texas (1836-1846) 40 (Dallas, Texas: Taylor Publishing Co., 1980).

Breitencamp, Edward C. Birdsall, John, Handbook of Texas Online (last updated June 6, 2001).

Speer, Ocie. Texas Jurists 24-25 (Austin, Texas: the author, 1936).

Extended bibliography

Ericson, Joe E. Judges of the Republic of Texas (1836-1846) 40 (Dallas, Texas: Taylor Publishing Co., 1980).

Speer, Ocie. Texas Jurists 24 (Austin, Texas: the author, 1936).

Additional information available in Southwestern Historical Quarterly as follow:
Volume 24, page 207
Volume 26, page 44
Volume 34, page 298
Volume 47, page 343, 344, 356, 369
Volume 53, page 294n
Volume 54, page 319
Volume 60, page 16