McClendon, James Wooten (1873–1972)

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: January 24, 2020

James Wooten McClendon, lawyer, judge, and chief justice of the state Court of Civil Appeals, was born on November 1, 1873, in West Point, Georgia, the son of James Wooten and Annie Eliza (Thompson) McClendon. After attending public schools in Georgia, he moved to Texas and received his B.A. degree from the University of Texas in 1895. In 1897 he was a member of the first graduating class of the University of Texas law school, and he began law practice that year in Austin. He was named associate justice on the Texas Supreme Court Commission of Appeals on October 7, 1918, and served until December 1923. He was appointed chief justice of the Court of Civil Appeals by Governor Pat Neff in 1923; he served in that position until 1949, when he retired. In 1929 McClendon proposed the formation of the Texas Judicial Council. He also served on an advisory committee appointed by the state Supreme Court to revise the rules of civil procedure. As chief justice of the Court of Civil Appeals in 1948, McClendon presided over the landmark case Sweatt v. Painter, in which Heman M. Sweatt, a black postal employee, charged that he was denied entry to the UT law school because of his race. McClendon's decision, overruled by the United States Supreme Court in 1950, ruled against Sweatt and upheld the state's "separate but equal" provisions in state schools. McClendon married Anne Hale Watt on December 14, 1904; they had two children. He was a member of numerous judicial and honorary societies and also served as director and a member of the board of editors of the Texas Law Review. He was a Methodist, a Mason, a Democrat, and a member of Town and Gown. He died in Austin on January 9, 1972, and was buried in the State Cemetery.

Austin American, January 10, 1972. Deborah D. Powers, The Court of Appeals at Austin, 1892–1992 (Austin: State House Press, 1992). Who's Who in America, 1960–61.

  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Politics and Government
  • Judges
Time Periods:
  • Great Depression
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Texas Post World War II

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

Anonymous, “McClendon, James Wooten,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 24, 2020