John Herndon James, chief justice of the Court of Civil Appeals, was born on October 13, 1852, in San Antonio, Texas, to Annie (Milby) and John James. He and his brother, Thomas Milby James, were sent to Earlham College, a Quaker institution in Richmond, Indiana. James graduated with the Harvard law class of 1874 and responded to a written deathbed request from his father on November 2, 1877, to assume the executorship of the large James estate. His capable and conscientious management and later division of the property was agreeable to the several heirs. Upon his return from Harvard to San Antonio, James joined Isaac P. Simpson in the law firm of Simpson and James, which handled many cases involving large landholdings in South and West Texas. James practiced law until 1893, when he was named by Governor James S. Hogg to the new Fourth Court of Civil Appeals in San Antonio, a position he held until his death. As chief justice he was noted for his ability and fairness even when compelled to render decisions against personal friends. His opinions were clear and logical and based on the law as he saw it. James's memberships included the State Bar of Texas, the Harvard Law School Association, the San Antonio Club, and the San Antonio Turnverein (see TURNVEREIN MOVEMENT). He was a member of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in San Antonio. On February 26, 1884, he married Maria Aurelia Williams. They had four children. The Jameses lived in San Antonio and maintained a summer residence at their James Park Ranch near Comfort, where James died suddenly on July 17, 1912.
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John Herndon James Collection, Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library, San Antonio. Maria A. W. James, I Remember (San Antonio: Naylor, 1938). Vinton Lee James, Frontier and Pioneer Recollections of Early Days in San Antonio and West Texas (San Antonio, 1938).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“James, John Herndon,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 30, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
April 25, 2019