Brooks, Victor Lee (1870–1925)

By: Mary Jayne Walsh

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: May 18, 2019

Victor Lee Brooks, attorney and judge, son of David and Beatrice (Houghton) Brooks, was born at Rutledge, Alabama, on September 25, 1870. The family moved in 1881 to Austin, Texas, where he attended both private and public schools. Upon graduation from Austin High School in 1888, he enrolled at the University of Texas. After two years as an undergraduate, Brooks entered the University of Texas law school, where he graduated in 1892 at the top of his class. He then began a law practice in Austin, which was interrupted when he was chosen by Judge Robert S. Gould and Robert L. Batts to fill a temporary vacancy on the law faculty at the University of Texas. He taught in 1895–96; Batts said Brooks's knowledge of law and his use of the English language made him an excellent teacher. Nevertheless, he was not made a permanent faculty member because the board of regents thought he was too young. From 1898 to 1903 he was Austin city attorney under Mayor Emmett White. The two were credited with saving Austin from bankruptcy after the Austin Dam broke in 1900. On August 16, 1904, Brooks married Grace S. Harrison of Austin, and they eventually had three sons.

Brooks was appointed judge of the Twenty-sixth Judicial District, composed of Travis and Williamson counties, in 1903. His best-known case was an antitrust suit brought against the Waters-Pierce Oil Company (see WATERS-PIERCE CASE). The case, in the courts from 1897 to 1909, became one of the most famous in Texas judicial history, perhaps because of the company's connection with Joseph Weldon Bailey, then a United States senator. The oil company was found guilty of violating the antitrust laws and fined more than $1,623,000. Judge Brooks's judgment was sustained in appeals all the way to the United States Supreme Court. He resigned from the bench in 1907 to resume his private practice after serving one appointed term and one elected term. He was a member of the firm Gregory, Batts, and Brooks until Thomas W. Gregory was appointed attorney general of the United States. Brooks then became a partner in Brooks, Hart, and Woodward. In 1924 the practice of Batts and Brooks was established. Brooks served as special council to the University of Texas Board of Regents in 1925 in leasing university lands for oil. He died on a fishing trip with his son, Henry, near Fort McKavett on September 1, 1925, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

Alcalde (magazine of the Ex-Students' Association of the University of Texas), July 1926. Austin American-Statesman, September 1, 1925. Vertical Files, Austin History Center. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Politics and Government
  • Judges
  • Lawyers
  • General Law

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

Mary Jayne Walsh, “Brooks, Victor Lee,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 18, 2019