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Graham Best Smedley (1879-1954)

Associate Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1945-1954

Graham Best Smedley was born November 10, 1879, in Millersburg, Bourbon County, Kentucky. He attended Georgetown College in Kentucky, studying the classics, and entered Harvard University to obtain an advanced degree, but returned home two weeks later. Instead he earned a law degree from the University of Virginia, graduating with highest honors. He was admitted to the Texas bar in 1905 and began practicing law in Dallas. In 1907 he was married and relocated to Midland, where he established a successful practice as an oil and gas attorney. The couple had no children.

In 1913 the thirty-three year-old Smedley was appointed assistant attorney general, in charge of the public lands division of the Texas attorney general's office. He remained in the position for six years, in charge of state litigation in the areas of school lands, oil, gas, and mineral estates, irrigation, and navigable waters. Following his service as an assistant attorney general, he practiced law for six years in Austin before moving to Wichita Falls in 1925. He joined a law firm there and then became an attorney for Continental Oil Company in Wichita Falls and Fort Worth.

In 1933 Gov. Miriam Ferguson appointed Smedley to the Supreme Court Commission of Appeals. In 1945, when a constitutional amendment increased the supreme court from three justices to nine, the commissioners became associate justices. The following November, Smedley was elected to the position and was reelected in 1952. Known for his sharp tongue and acid pen, he earned a reputation on the court as "the great dissenter." He was also known for his legal scholarship, which included writing a digest on Texas oil and gas law and serving on the editorial board of the Texas Law Review.

Smedley served on the Texas Supreme Court until his death following a brief illness, in Austin, June 16, 1954 at the age of seventy-four. He was buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.


Graham B. Smedley, 17 Texas Bar Journal 685 (December 1954).

Graham Best Smedley, Texas State Cemetery (accessed October 13, 2006).

Memorial to Judge Graham B. Smedley, Texas Supreme Court, November 24, 1954.
271 S.W.2d XXIX-XLVIII (1954).

Extended bibliography

Speer, Ocie. Texas Jurists 202, 682 (Austin, Texas: the author, 1936).

Additional information available in Southwestern Historical Quarterly as follow:
Volume 60, page 19, 20

Additional information available in Texas Bar Journal as follow:
Volume 17, page 497, 685
Volume 28, page 426

Kennedy, Marl L. Smedley Loves Law as Writ, Austin American-Statesman, Nov. 12, 1950.

G. B. Smedley, Supreme Court Justice, Dies, Austin American-Statesman, June 17, 1954.

Justice Smedley's Rites To Be in Austin Friday, Dallas Morning News, June 18, 1954.