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Reuben A. Reeves (1821-1908)

Associate Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1864-1866
Associate Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1874-1876

Little is known of Reuben A. Reeves between his birth on August 9, 1821 in Todd County, Kentucky, and his arrival in Texas in 1846 at the age of twenty-five. He was married before leaving Kentucky and settled with his bride in Palestine, the county seat of Anderson County. He established a successful law practice and in 1848 had a home built there. This home, today a Texas Historical Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is considered an excellent example of Greek Revival architecture. It now belongs to the City of Palestine and is operated as Howard House Museum.

By 1850 Reeves counted five slaves among his property, and the following decade would continue to be prosperous for his career and his family. By 1860 he and his wife had six children and had relocated to a larger home, their number of slaves had increased to thirteen, and the value of their property holdings had increased many times over. Reeves had become active in civic affairs that included helping to establish the local school system. In 1857 he was elected district judge.

During the Civil War Reeves was a captain in Terrell's Texas Cavalry, part of Walker's Texas Division, and fought in the Red River Campaign in the spring of 1864. That August he was elected associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court; he resigned from the Confederate Army in September to accept the post, in which he served until war's end. He participated in the Constitutional Convention of 1866, and was elected district court judge for the Ninth Judicial District. During this time he reportedly refused to allow blacks to participate in the judicial process, and was among officials removed from office as "impediments to Reconstruction" on November 30, 1867 when Texas came under federal military control.

When Richard Coke took office in January 1874 following the notorious Coke/Davis gubernatorial election, he appointed Reeves associate justice of the supreme court. Reeves held the position until the adoption of the 1876 constitution.

Following his court service, Reeves returned to private practice in Palestine until President Cleveland appointed him to the supreme court of the New Mexico Territory after taking office in 1885. He relocated to Santa Fe and served in the position until 1889 when Cleveland 's term ended. Reeves moved to Dallas, where he lived until his death on January 30, 1908. He was buried in Dallas' Greenwood Cemetery.

Notable opinions

State v. Bristow, 41 Texas reports 146 (Tex. 1874) (affirming dismissal of indictment charging defendant with illegal gambling on a billiard table, as charge failed to specify defendant did not engage in a licensed billiards game, legal under the gaming statute).

Stafford v. King, 30 Texas Reports 258 (1867) (establishing principle that in locating disputed boundary lines, priority must be given to the calls of the original grant that are more specific and definite in preference to those merely general and indefinite).


Caraway, Georgia Kemp. Reeves, Reuben A., Handbook of Texas Online (last updated June 6, 2001).

Howard House, Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce (last updated May 17, 2005).

Poldervaart, Arie William. Black-Robed Justice 137 (Santa Fe?, New Mexico: Historical Society of New Mexico, 1948).

Extended bibliography

Poldervaart, Arie William. Black-robed Justice 137 (Santa Fe?, New Mexico: Historical Society of New Mexico, 1948).

Speer, Ocie. Texas Jurists 40 (Austin, Texas: the author, 1936).

Additional information available in Southwestern Historical Quarterly as follow:
Volume 11, page 303, 307
Volume 60, page 17
Volume 62, page 156
Volume 63, page 65
Volume 68, page 468
Volume 79, page 132