Bliss, Don Alfonso (1854–1939)

Revised by: Laurie E. Jasinski

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: November 1, 1994

Don Alfonso Bliss, lawyer, judge, and legal scholar, son of Joseph F. Bliss, was born in Artesia, Mississippi, on December 14, 1854. He graduated from King's College, Bristol, Tennessee, in 1873. On April 22, 1874, he married Myra Maud Hampton; they had six children. The family moved to Texas, where Bliss purchased land in Fannin County and also established and conducted the Van Alstyne Institute, a private school in Grayson County, from 1881 to 1885. He also studied law in the office of Brown & Gunter in Sherman. In 1885 he entered the law school of the University of Texas and studied under Oran M. Roberts, former governor of Texas. Bliss was admitted to the bar in 1886 and practiced in Sherman with the firm of Brown, Gunter & Bliss until 1892, when he was appointed judge of the Fifteenth Judicial District. He served in that office until 1900.

In 1906, at the insistence of attorney Jot Gunter, with whom he had practiced in Sherman, he moved to San Antonio, where he served on the board of education. As an authority on land-title cases, he wrote on the establishment of Texas law in regard to public charities and represented Adina de Zavala in the case to save the Alamo in 1907. He also published a legal work, The Nature of the Title Held by the Heirs of a Deceased Wife to One-half of the Ganancial Property under the Spanish Law (n.d.). When irrigation projects opened the Rio Grande valley for citrus-fruit growing and truck farming, Judge Bliss represented several purchasers and became an authority on irrigation law. His professional activities included legal work regarding the Quemade Irrigation District between El Paso and Del Rio, and he was the attorney for the Hidalgo County Water Control & Improvement District No. 4 throughout the 1920s.

Eventually Bliss also opened and maintained an office in Edinburg in Hidalgo County while operating an active practice in San Antonio. Throughout his career, he represented clients in both state and federal trial courts as well as numerous Courts of Civil Appeals, the Supreme Court of Texas, United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and Supreme Court of the United States. Bliss practiced in San Antonio until shortly before his death there, on December 3, 1939.

Emory A. Bailey, Who's Who in Texas (Dallas: John B. McCraw Press, 1931). Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (5 vols., ed. E. C. Barker and E. W. Winkler [Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1914; rpt. 1916]). Texas Bar Journal, September 1971. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Revised by Laurie E. Jasinski, “Bliss, Don Alfonso,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 30, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994