Jesse Martin Combs, jurist and congressman, son of Frank and Mary (Beck) Combs, was born in Shelby County, Texas, on July 7, 1889. He was orphaned as a small child and raised by his maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Beck. After graduating from Center High School, Combs attended San Marcos State Teachers College (now Southwest Texas State University) and received his degree in 1912. He taught at several rural schools before becoming the Hardin county agent in 1914. Four years later he was admitted to the bar and elected county judge. He subsequently served as judge for the Seventy-fifth District Court, which served Tyler, Hardin, Liberty, Chambers, and Montgomery counties. He moved to Beaumont and sat on the Ninth Court of Civil Appeals from 1933 to 1943. He was also influential in developing Beaumont's South Park school district, and was president of the Board of Trustees of Lamar Junior College (now Lamar University) from 1940 to 1944.
In May 1944 Combs announced that he would challenge incumbent Martin Dies for the Second Congressional District seat. Faced with a difficult battle, the controversial Dies decided not to seek reelection. Combs served four terms in Congress as a key associate of fellow Democrat Samuel T. (Sam) Rayburn. As a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Combs was influential in securing federal appropriations for housing, industrial, and water projects, such as those at Dam B and McGee Bend (see B. A. STEINHAGEN LAKE, SAM RAYBURN RESERVOIR). He opposed a large reduction in the capital-gains tax and supported President Harry Truman's 1947 loyalty order for government employees. Combs generally backed Truman in Congress, although he broke with the president over the Tidelands Controversy. Poor health led him not to seek reelection in 1952. He died of lung cancer on August 21, 1953, at Beaumont and was buried there in Magnolia Cemetery. He was a Baptist. Two sons and his wife of forty-two years, Katherine (Alford), survived the former congressman.