The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957 Page: 14
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
from the interest of the general populace, in the election year
of 1950 the members trembled for their political life. By virtue
of unusual circumstances, a majority of the court was standing
for election that year when the Dallas News discovered a great
news story in the case of William Hagedorn. The seventy-seven-
year-old Central Texas farmer, born in Germany, who could
neither read nor write English, was sued for damages following
an automobile mishap caused by an unattended mule near his
farm. The trial court had rendered a judgment against him
when he failed to appear to defend the suit, and though he
steadfastly maintained in the appeals that "It vas no my mule,"
the Supreme Court upheld the judgment, on the ground that
he had not used due diligence in defending the suit. Although
this decision seems unequitable, the Court was bound to it by
the existing citation statutes. Because of the publicity surround-
ing this particular case the citation forms have been amended so
that the same incident cannot arise again. Hagedorn's life sav-
ings of $2,632 were garnisheed. Day after day the news and press
services played the story, reiterating the refrain "It vas no my
mule." The Belden Poll of April 23, 195o, estimated that 52
per cent of the adult Texans had read or heard about Hagedorn
and 78 per cent of those believed the Supreme Court unfair.
Telephones jangled in the offices and homes of the judges; let-
ters poured in to them and to the newspaper. Vainly, the jus-
tices tried to explain. The caller usually queried again "Who
owned the mule?" The happy ending to this story was that
hundreds of Texans sent dimes and dollars to restore the old
man's little horde, and a mighty effort on the part of the Texas
Bar saved the careers of some exceptionally fine jurists.
The atmosphere in the Supreme Court room during the sub-
mission of cases is ordinarily solemn and dignified, but some-
times this solemnity disappears. Only a few years ago, when the
court was behind with its docket, cases would be submitted for
two or three days in succession. Naturally the members of the
court would be somewhat impatient if an attorney arguing his
side of the case did not come promptly to the main point. The
story goes that on one occasion, when the weather was hot, and
at the end of the second day, a certain lawyer was slow in pre-
senting his main point in a case. He had thirty minutes to pre-
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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/m1/26/: accessed October 16, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.