Texas Supreme Court advisory

Contact: Osler McCarthy, staff attorney for public information
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Tuesday, July 19, 2011
First Republican on the Texas Supreme Court since Reconstruction died July 15. He was the son of a Texas Supreme Court justice.

Garwood-and-Jefferson.JPGA memorial service for former Texas Supreme Court Justice Will Garwood, the first Republican on the Court since Reconstruction and for 30 years a federal appellate judge, will be at 1 p.m. Friday, July 29, at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, 3201 Windsor Road in Austin.

Judge Garwood died July 15 after heart-bypass surgery in Austin. He was 79.

He was the only son of a former justice to serve on the Court. Gov. Bill Clements appointed him to the Texas Supreme Court in 1979, but he was defeated the next year in his bid to retain his seat. President Ronald Reagan appointed him in 1981 to the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

His father, W. St. John Garwood, who later served as a University of Texas regent, was on the Court from 1948 until he retired in 1959. He died in 1987.

“This is the Court’s loss, the state’s and the nation’s,” Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson said.. “Judge Garwood exemplified the better qualities of compassion and diligence to the rule of law.”

Judge Garwood suffered a heart attack earlier in the week.

Judge Garwood is survived by his wife of 55 years, the former Merle C. Haffler; two children, Will Garwood Jr. and Mary Yancy; and six grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the Garwood family requested contributions in his memory to the Salvation Army, P.O. Box 1000, Austin 78767.

For all but about two years of his time on the Fifth Circuit, Judge Garwood was a colleague with Senior Circuit Judge Thomas M. Reavley, also a former Texas Supreme Court justice. “About 35 years ago Will Garwood came to my office and asked me if I thought he would make a good judge,” Judge Reavley said. “All of us know how right I was to encourage that move. He was a model judge and colleague for all.” 

William Lockhart Garwood was born October 29, 1931, in Houston, named after his maternal grandfather, William Lockhart Clayton, who as under secretary of State for economic affairs was a principal architect of the Marshall Plan.

A graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, Garwood finished at the top of his class in 1955 after earning his bachelor’s degree in 1952 from Princeton University. He served three years in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps after clerking for Fifth Circuit Judge John R.Brown, then returned to Austin to practice law with what was then the Graves, Dougherty, Hearon, Moody & Garwood law firm, now Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody.He clerked for Judge John R. Brown on the Fifth Circuit and would join Judge Brown as a colleague there when after the U.S. Senate confirmed his appointment to the federal appellate bench in 1981.

Garwood was defeated in the 1980 general election by Justice C.L. Ray Jr. He took the defeat in stride and with his noted sense of humor: “I was returned to private practice one year later by popular mandate,” he would quip.

In January 1997 he assumed senior status on the Fifth Circuit. Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla R. Owen replaced him when the U.S. Senate confirmed her in 2005.

“He had a keen intellect melded with common sense that was evident in his careful, thorough and beautifully written opinions for the court,” Judge Owen said. “Every member of the court highly valued and respected Judge Garwood's views on the difficult issues that came before the Fifth Circuit during the 30 years that he served. When Will spoke, we all listened. As much as we will miss his wise counsel, we will miss even more his friendship, collegiality, wonderful sense of humor and his ready smile.”

In June Judge Garwood was honored by the Texas Center for Legal Ethics with its Chief Justice Jack Pope Professionalism Award [see photo, with Chief Justice Jefferson, who presented the award]. From 1994 to 2001, he served on the Advisory Committee on Appellate Rules of the Judicial Conference of the United States, serving as chairman in 1997-2001. He continued to work until he died, even making plans for his next court appearance from his hospital bed.

Justice Nathan L. Hecht recalled calling Judge Garwood when he considered running the Texas Supreme Court in 1988. “‘Don’t do it,’” Hecht remembered Garwood telling him. “‘A Republican can’t be elected. You’ll work yourself to death with nothing to show for it.’”

“After I won, Will called to congratulate,” Hecht said Friday. “‘But you led the way,’ I said.”