Merritt, Robert Clarence (1872–1927)

By: David Minor

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: April 1, 1995

Clarence Merritt, United States district attorney for Texas, the son of William Washington and Virginia (Compton) Merritt, was born at McKinney, Texas, in 1872. His childhood interest in law and politics, probably stimulated by his father's activities as sheriff of Collin County and state legislator, led to his decision to become a lawyer. After graduating from Texas A&M College in 1893, Merritt returned to McKinney, prepared for the bar exam, and was admitted to the Texas bar in 1895, after which he joined the law practice of Judge H. M. Garnett of McKinney. Within a few years he was a full partner of the firm Garnett, Smith, and Merritt. His successful practice led to his election in 1902 as Collin county attorney, a position he held until 1906. He also served as chairman of the Collin County Democratic Executive Committee for six years. His legal experience and participation in statewide politics resulted in his being selected to represent the Fourth Congressional District of Texas at the Democratic national convention in 1912. Merritt was one of the so-called "immortal forty" who, through forty-six ballots, supported the nomination of Woodrow Wilson. On July 1, 1914, Wilson appointed Merritt United States district attorney for the Eastern District of Texas. He was reappointed on July 1, 1918, and served as district attorney until March 1, 1920, when he resigned to become senior member of the law firm Merritt, Leddy, and Hartz. He was a delegate to the Democratic national convention in San Francisco in 1920. After leaving Washington, Merritt originally returned to McKinney. In 1921, however, he moved to Dallas, where his firm had its home office. He and Leddy also had branches in Eastland and Breckenridge. In Dallas, Merritt became an officer of the board of the East Dallas Christian Church. He was married to Leslie Pearson. He was a Mason, Odd Fellow, and Elk. He died on April 28, 1927, and was buried in McKinney.

Dallas Morning News April 29, 1927. E. W. Winkler, Platforms of Political Parties in Texas (Austin: University of Texas, 1916).
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  • North Texas

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

David Minor, “Merritt, Robert Clarence,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 1, 1995