The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957 Page: 3
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A History of the Civil Courts in Texas
tage of the majority of the colonists. The outstanding feature
of this system was trial by jury, which has remained fundamental
in the judicial system of this state." The same constitution also
provided for district judges and a Supreme Court composed of
all the district judges., The men who served on district benches
and consequently served as associate justices of the Supreme
Court during the brief life of the Republic of Texas strength-
ened and enriched this period. Some of the familiar names
found in records as holders of these offices are George W. Terrell,
W. B. Ochiltree, Ezekiel W. Cullen, R. E. B. Baylor, and Oran
During these pioneer days of the judiciary, the lawless ele-
ment among the citizenry struggled to prevent the establishment
of duly constituted courts and to thwart the administration of
justice through orderly courts. Judge Meade F. Griffin, Associ-
ate Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, suggests that this
struggle to establish law and order through the courts is strik-
ingly portrayed by a mural in the State Bar Building in Austin.
This mural depicts an early-day courtroom in which the judge's
dais is a table. At one side of this table a ruffian stands with his
hand outstretched toward a long knife which has been driven
into the table top. At one end of the table stands a judge whose
peg leg is fastened onto his bent leg at the knee. The judge's
hand reaches out above a pistol which lies near the knife. The
two men are glaring at each other. In the room hangs a crude
sign saying "Third Judicial District of the Republic of Texas."
An interesting story gives rise to this mural scene. When the
Third Judicial District was established in 1836, the thieves and
cutthroats in that part of the country boasted that no court
would ever be held there. The Congress of the Republic elected
as judge of that district R. M. Williamson, who was nicknamed
"Three-legged Willie." Despite the paralysis which affected his
right leg as a boy, he was a courageous man as well as an able
lawyer. His first term of court was convened in a Shelbyville
schoolhouse, where one of the defendants arose, proceeded to
the table in front of the judge, and moved to dismiss his case.
5Daffan Gilmer, "Early Courts and Lawyers of Texas," in ibid., 450o.
eWharton, "Early Judicial History of Texas," in ibid., 323.
7Gilmer, "Early Courts and Lawyers of Texas," in ibid., 450.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957, periodical, 1957; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101163/m1/15/: accessed March 30, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.