Dougherty, John Chrysostom Iii (1915–2014)

By: Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell

Type: Biography

Published: July 9, 2019

Updated: July 4, 2019

John Chrysostom Dougherty III, lawyer and champion of legal assistance for the poor, was born Robert Henderson Dougherty in Beeville, Texas, on May 3, 1915. He was the son of J. Chrysostom and Mary Virginia (Henderson) Dougherty. Robert had an older brother, J. Chrys Dougherty, Jr., who died at the age of three or four, and the father of the family died when Robert was fifteen. At the age of sixteen, to carry on the family name, Robert legally became J. Chrysostom Dougherty III.

Dougherty attended the University of Texas and Harvard Law School. At Harvard, he met Mary Ireland “Miggie” Graves, a student at Vassar, and the couple married on April 18, 1942, in Austin, Texas. Dougherty served in the U.S. Counter-Intelligence Corps in France and in the Judge Advocate General Corps during World War II and then returned to Harvard to complete his studies, with a focus on international law. In 1946 he and his father-in-law Ireland Graves co-founded the Graves, Dougherty law firm in Austin. He served as president of United World Federalists in 1947–48. His most notable legal case began in 1949 when he became a special assistant to Texas attorney general Price Daniel, Sr., in the state’s dispute with the federal government over the ownership of tidewater oil lands in the Gulf of Mexico (see TIDELANDS CONTROVERSY). During the legal dispute, which continued for twenty years, Dougherty argued before the United States Supreme Court and took a position that eventually won, allowing Texas over the ensuing years to earn billions from offshore oil leases.

Dougherty had a consuming interest in making legal services available to everyone in society rather than only to those who were wealthy and well-positioned. According to Clarke Heidrick, a lawyer at Dougherty’s law firm, he “had a vision for what lawyers were supposed to be, and it included helping poor people.” Dougherty served as president of the Texas State Bar in 1979–80, and each year, the Bar honors a legal services staff attorney with an award named in his honor. Dougherty retired in 1995 and then assisted in launching Texas Appleseed, a group that organizes volunteer lawyers to work on issues such as reform of the criminal justice system of Texas and immigration. He also served on the board of the Austin Project, an organization that sought to maintain families and improve educational opportunities. Dougherty was an officer of the Philosophical Society of Texas for many years, and served on the board of trustees for the Advanced Religious Study Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching Presbyterian theological education in the United States by providing supplementary funding for four major seminaries—Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Colombia Theological Seminary in Georgia, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and Union Theological Seminary in Virginia—from its inception in 1955.

Dougherty had a daughter, Molly, and a son, J. Chrys IV, with his first wife before her death in 1977. The following year Dougherty married Bea Ann Smith. They divorced, and in 1982 he married Sarah Blair Randle, creating a union that lasted until her death in 1997. J. Chrys Dougherty III died at the age of ninety-eight on February 20, 2014, in Austin. His memorial service was held at University Presbyterian Church in Austin, and he was buried in Oakwood Cemetery in that city.

Austin American-Statesman, February 21, 2014. J. Chrys Dougherty III papers, 1953–1978, Austin Seminary Archives, Stitt Library, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. “Graves Dougherty mourns the loss of founding partner J. Chrys Dougherty,” Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody (, accessed July 3, 2019. 


  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Civic Leaders
  • Lawyers
  • General Law
  • Oil and Gas and Natural Resources Law

Time Periods:

  • Texas Post World War II
  • Texas in the 21st Century


  • Austin
  • Central Texas

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

Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell, “Dougherty, John Chrysostom Iii,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 04, 2021,

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July 9, 2019
July 4, 2019