Irby J. Dunklin, attorney, judge, and philanthropist, was born on September 11, 1857, in Greenville, Alabama. His parents, James L. and Mary Dunklin, operated a very successful mercantile, and his father frequently held the position of Butler County treasurer between 1846 and 1885. Dunklin suffered from rheumatism in his youth but attended the University of Georgia and graduated in 1880. Soon after his graduation, Dunklin moved to Cass County, Texas, where he stayed for less than a year before moving on to Fort Worth in 1881.
In 1895 Dunklin, who had established himself as a respected attorney in Fort Worth, married Lilly (also spelled Lillie) Dale Arnold, a young Mississippi native. By 1887 he was elected judge of the Forty-eighth Judicial District Court in Fort Worth. In 1907 the Dunklins, who had no children themselves, became very involved with an initiative to build an orphanage in Fort Worth dedicated to providing homes for unwanted children from eastern cities. Judge Dunklin and his wife served on the board of directors for the Gladney Center for Adoption and became instrumental in fundraising efforts for the organization.
After serving as a district judge for eleven years, Dunklin was elected to the Second Court of Civil Appeals, a position in which he served until his appointment as the Chief Justice of the Second Court of Civil Appeals in 1930. Lilly Dunklin, whose illness had required the care of a live-in nurse, died that same year from a stroke. Chief Justice Dunklin continued his service on the bench and married Ada Willingham Waller of El Paso in 1933. In 1940 he announced his retirement from the court. The following year, his wife of nine years died. Dunklin lived the remainder of his years as a widower and died in Fort Worth on November 16, 1949. He was buried in Greenwood Cemetery.
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Dallas Morning News, November 17, 1949. John Buckner Little, The History of Butler County, Alabama, From 1815 to 1885 (Cincinnati: Elm Street Printing Company, 1885). Records of the Tarrant County District Clerk’s Office, Fort Worth, Texas. State Bar of Texas Archives, Austin.
Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
Politics and Government
Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
Texas in the 1920s
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
David J. Williams,
“Dunklin, Irby J.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 22, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
July 19, 2015
Most Recent Revision Date:
October 16, 2020
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: