James Robert Dougherty, attorney, oilman, and philanthropist, the son of Robert and Rachel (Sullivan) Dougherty, was born in San Patricio, Texas, on August 27, 1871. He was certified to teach at the age of sixteen and took a position in Webb County. Two years later he enrolled at Saint Louis University, after which he attended the University of Texas in Austin. He studied law in the offices of Lon C. Hill and James B. Wells and was admitted to the bar on March 4, 1895. He went to Beeville to practice law, and later his brother, J. Chris Dougherty, joined him to form the law firm of Dougherty and Dougherty. James Dougherty helped to establish the legal precedent of private ownership of minerals in the beds of nonnavigable rivers.
He dealt in livestock all his life. He developed a silver mine in Durango, Mexico, in 1916. He was instrumental in discovering a number of South Texas oilfields, including the Tom O'Conner, Greta, Pettus, Flour Bluff, Refugio, Dougherty, and several others. With Dr. W. E. Hewit, he formed the oil company of Hewit and Dougherty, which operated over a wide area of South and West Texas. Dougherty spoke Spanish fluently and was a student of Latin, Greek, and French. He furnished capital to a publishing company in New York for translations from Latin and Greek. He was elected first lieutenant by a company of volunteers during the Spanish-American War. He married Genevieve Tarlton on April 24, 1911, and they had four children. He was a member of the board of regents of Texas A&I University at Kingsville for ten years and a member of the boards of regents of Incarnate Word and Our Lady of the Lake colleges in San Antonio. A decade before his death, he and his wife established the Dougherty Foundation as an aid to youths for obtaining an education.
Dougherty was a Catholic and a fourth-degree Knight of Columbus. He was made a knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great (1947) and of the Order of Malta (1948), as well as of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre (1948). In 1937 the Doughertys donated $12,000 to finance the construction of a new St. Joseph's School in Beeville. Later they built the James R. Dougherty, Jr., Recreation Center in memory of their son, who was killed in action during World War II. Dougherty died on July 8, 1950, in Corpus Christi and was buried in Beeville.