Curtis, Albert Burch (1875–1955)


By: Isabella Rapisarda and Russell Stites

Type: Biography

Published: July 28, 2022

Updated: July 28, 2022


Albert Burch Curtis, lawyer and legislator, son of James Holland Curtis and Nancy R. (McDaniel) Curtis, was born in Tennessee on September 3, 1875. He earned his law degree from Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee, and became president of the Cookeville Collegiate Institute in Cookeville, Tennessee. He married Lee Ann Johnson in White County, Tennessee, on August 7, 1901. Shortly thereafter they moved to Ada in Indian Territory, where Curtis had been elected school superintendent. The couple had three children: Albert Samuel, Sarah Virginia, and William Landsen, over the course of ten years.

The Curtis family moved to Fort Worth, Texas, in December 1903, and Curtis established a legal practice there in January 1904. They lived in the same home at 1820 South Jennings Avenue for the rest of their fifty-four-year-long marriage. Curtis, a lifelong Democrat, had an active career in law, politics, and civic affairs. In 1905 he was elected commander of the local Sons of Confederate Veterans camp. In 1907 he was a founding member of Fort Worth’s Young Men’s Good Government Club. From 1907 to 1909 Curtis served as an assistant city attorney, and from 1909 to 1913 he was assistant corporation counsel. He served as president of the Fort Worth Board of Health from 1913 to 1914. He resigned prior to the end of his term due to the demands of his private legal practice. By 1915 he formed a partnership with attorneys Robert and Harry C. McCart. From 1910 to 1918 Curtis served as chair of the Tarrant County Democratic Executive Committee. In 1916 he was elected as a Tarrant County delegate to the state Democratic convention, which endorsed the reelection of Woodrow Wilson.

In 1918 Curtis was elected to represent District 54, Place 1 in the state legislature. In the Democratic primary in July, he won an easy victory over Theodore Koenig—17,497 votes to 4,616. During the Thirty-sixth Texas Legislature, Curtis served as vice-chair of the House Judiciary Committee and was a member of the committees on Common Carriers, Conservation and Reclamation, Municipal and Private Corporations, and Public Health. During this legislature, he authored nine House bills and co-authored several others. Among these, the most significant that became law were House Bill 560 in the regular session and House Bill 11 in the third called session. The former bill created a system of public roads and bridges in Tarrant County and allowed the county to hold road bond elections; the latter bill, co-authored with Benjamin L. Cox and others, placed natural gas pipelines under the authority of the Railroad Commission. Curtis was re-elected in 1920. He ran without opposition in the Democratic primary and was a delegate to the state Democratic convention.

During the Thirty-seventh Texas Legislature, he served as the House majority leader. Once again he was on the Common Carriers, Public Health, and Judiciary committees, but he was also named to the Oil, Gas and Mining Committee, of which he was chair, and the Game and Fisheries Committee. During his second term, he introduced fewer bills, only one of which became law—House Bill 571 in the regular session, which provided for road commissioner boards of subdivisions of Denton County. During both of his terms, Curtis introduced joint resolutions to abolish the office of county tax assessor-collector, but the measure failed both times. His second term ended on January 9, 1923.

In February 1923 Curtis was named to a Texas Bar Association committee formed to propose a bill that would have created a new district court located in Tarrant County. These efforts led to the creation of the Ninety-Sixth District Court. In 1926 Curtis ran for judge of Tarrant’s County Court at Law No. 2. In a four-way race, won handily by P. J. Small, Curtis finished third. Curtis was a frequent public speaker and active in civic improvement campaigns. In 1929 he was president of the Fourth Ward Civic League and the chair of the Seventh Ward Southwest Civic League in Fort Worth.

In 1933, during the Great Depression, Curtis was appointed chair of the Tarrant County Board of Welfare and Employment, an advisory body that helped coordinate relief services in the county. As board chair, he urged local support for the passage of a constitutional amendment that allowed the legislature to issue bonds to raise the funds needed to match the federal welfare support. Later that year, Curtis, resigned the position to accept an appointment as assistant secretary of state under Governor Miriam A. “Ma” Ferguson. Curtis had been an ardent supporter of Ferguson. In 1930 he had led Ferguson’s unsuccessful campaign efforts in Tarrant County and chaired a county convention of Ferguson supporters who temporarily broke with the county Democratic party. In 1932 Curtis again supported Ferguson’s bid for governor. He was an officer in the Tarrant County Ferguson-for-Governor Club and a delegate to the Democratic state convention. Andrew J. Power, a fellow officer in the Tarrant County Club, was appointed assistant secretary of state by the victorious Ferguson. In November 1933, following Power’s appointment to the Second Court of Civil Appeals, Curtis was appointed to fill the position. One of his duties was to vet applications for state charters. He served for the remainder of Ferguson’s term. As that term drew to a close, Curtis applied for appointment to fill a vacant district judgeship for the Ninety-Sixth District at Fort Worth, but Ferguson appointed Power instead. Curtis felt slighted and announced that he would seek the judgeship in the next Democratic primary. In that July 1936 race, he finished a distant fifth.

Curtis was a progressive. He endorsed the People’s Progressive League candidates for Fort Worth City Council in 1937. He was also a vocal supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal and was a delegate to the state Democratic conventions in 1936, 1940, and 1944. In the latter convention, Curtis was selected by a pro-Roosevelt faction that broke with the Tarrant County Democratic party.

Curtis practiced law until declining health forced his retirement two years prior to his death. Near the end of his career, he formed a partnership with former district judge James E. Mercer. Curtis was a member of the Knights of Pythias, Red Cross Lodge, Woodmen of the World, and a longtime member of the Central Methodist Church. Albert Burch Curtis died on September 27, 1955, from complications arising from cirrhosis of the liver. He was buried at Laurel Land Memorial Park in Fort Worth.

Dallas Morning News, March 14, 1904; May 23, 1904. Fort Worth Record and Register, October 6, 1906; March 3, 1909. Fort Worth Record-Telegram, July 13, 1926; October 1, 1929; October 3, 1929. Fort Worth Star-Telegram, March 13, 1905; April 13, 1907; October 15, 1907; April 14, 1909; November 9, 1910; September 9, 1913; January 23, 1914; May 10, 1916; August 4, 1918; May 21, 1920; July 30, 1920; February 3, 1923; July 31, 1926; August 19, 1930; September 1, 1930; September 18, 1932; August 19, 1933; November 7, 1933; January 2, 1935; July 27, 1936; August 2, 1936; November 24, 1937; May 8, 1940; May 11, 1944; July 30, 1944; December 4, 1952; June 19, 1955; September 28, 1955. Kilgore News Herald, December 4, 1934. Legislative Reference Library of Texas: Albert Burch Curtis (https://lrl.texas.gov/legeLeaders/members/memberDisplay.cfm?memberID=2458), accessed July 26, 2022. Nashville American, August 9, 1901. Tyler Morning Telegraph, November 7, 1933.

Categories:
  • Education
  • School Principals and Superintendents
  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • Politics and Government
  • Government Officials
  • House
  • State Legislators
  • Thirty-seventh Legislature (1921)
  • Thirty-sixth Legislature (1919-1920)
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era
  • Great Depression
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Texas Post World War II
Places:
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Fort Worth

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

Isabella Rapisarda and Russell Stites, “Curtis, Albert Burch,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 11, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/curtis-albert-burch.

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July 28, 2022
July 28, 2022

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