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Milford Phillips Norton (1794-1860)

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Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the Republic of Texas, 1845-1846

Milford Phillips Norton, who served as an associate justice of the supreme court of the Republic for only twenty days, was born January 23, 1794 in Readfield, Maine. Norton lived in Readfield and Bangor, where he practiced law, was a state land agent (1830-31), and served in the state legislature (1838-39). He served in the Massachusetts militia during the War of 1812. He was married, widowed, and remarried while living in Maine.

Norton arrived in Texas in 1839 at the age of forty-five, and established a law practice in Galveston with Alexander H. Phillips. (Phillips went on to serve in the Congress of the Republic and was a state senator following annexation.) The following year Norton moved to Black Point in Refugio County. He moved to Bayou City in Montgomery County in 1841 and practiced law there for several years. In 1844 he moved to Houston, where he bought the newspaper, the Civilian (which he renamed the Democrat ). He served as postmaster of Houston from 1844 to 1845. Norton was elected a delegate to the Convention of 1845, and served as its chairman.

President Sam Houston appointed Norton judge of the Sixth Judicial District in September 1844, but the validity of the appointment, made during a recess of the congress, was contested, and Norton resigned. He was elected to the position at the congress' next session. His election made him an associate justice of the supreme court, a position he held for several weeks from December 15, 1845 until January 5, 1846. Under the newly adopted constitution of the new State of Texas, the supreme court would no longer consist of district judges sitting in banc, but of a chief justice and two associate justices.

Following annexation, Norton served as judge of the Western District, headquartered in Corpus Christi (1846-1850). Following his term he and his wife returned to Refugio County, where he practiced law. He served as judge of the Fourteenth District following the death of Judge James Webb (1856-58). Milford P. Norton died in San Antonio on June 8, 1860.


Ericson, Joe E. Judges of the Republic of Texas (1836-1846) 209 (Dallas, Texas: Taylor Publishing Co., 1980).

Huson, Hobart. Norton, Milford Phillips, Handbook of Texas Online.

Wynn, Leila Clark. A History of the Civil Courts in Texas, 60(1) The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 1-22.

Extended bibliography

Davis, Ellis A. and Edwin H. Grobe. 4 The New Encyclopedia of Texas 2312 (Dallas, Texas: Texas Development Bureau, 1929?).

Ericson, Joe E. Judges of the Republic of Texas (1836-1846) 209 (Dallas, Texas: Taylor Publishing Co., 1980).

Huson, Hobart. District Judges of Refugio County 69 (Refugio, Texas: Refugio Timely Remarks, 1941).

Additional information available in Southwestern Historical Quarterly as follow:
Volume 58, page 269, 295
Volume 59, page 313
Volume 60, page 17

Milford P. Norton Papers. Archives Division, Texas State Library (Austin, Texas).

Norton, Charles G. Milford P. Norton, Pioneer of Bayou City. Archives Division, Texas State Library (Austin, Texas).