Menton Joseph Murray, Sr., judge and legislator, son of James Joseph and Katherine (Menton) Murray, was born in Dayton, Ohio, on October 25, 1907. He moved to Houston, Texas, with his family in 1918 and to Mercedes in December 1919. He graduated second in his class from Mercedes High School in 1925. During his senior year he won first place in news writing in the University Interscholastic League meeting in Austin, the first year the subject was included. Murray attended Rice Institute (1925–28), where he was managing editor of the Rice Thresher (1927–28). He earned his LL.B. from the University of Texas in 1931 and served as issue editor of the Daily Texan (1930–31). He was admitted to the Texas bar in 1931 and thereafter practiced law in Harlingen. He was a member of the firm McCullough, Murray, McCullough from 1957 until his death. He was Harlingen Municipal Court judge and justice of the peace from 1938 to 1942.
Murray was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1949 and served thirteen terms with distinction. He became dean of the House in 1963 and retired in 1975. By 1959, during the Fifty-sixth Legislature, he was serving on the State Affairs Panel and chairing the House Conservation and Reclamation Committee, where he sponsored several important bills. He became known as "Mr. Water" for his tireless work for the future of statewide water resources and for his role in the passage, on April 14, 1967, of the Water Rights Adjudication Act (see WATER LAW). After the closing in 1958 of Harlingen Air Force Base, which left Harlingen in serious economic straits, Murray launched vigorous legislative efforts to bring new industry, educational institutions, and medical facilities to the Valley. In 1959 he sponsored a bill allowing retired teachers to act as substitutes without loss of retirement benefits. He chaired the special investigating committee that heard testimony about the breakdown of law enforcement in Jefferson County in 1961. He sponsored the Padre Island National Seashore bill, signed by Governor John Connally on April 5, 1963. In 1967 Murray was instrumental in bringing to Harlingen a branch of James Connally Technical Institute of Waco. This institution became, through subsequent legislation, the Rio Grande Valley Campus of Texas State Technical Institute, which was dedicated on August 24, 1970. As chairman of the Higher Education Commission beginning in 1971, Murray sponsored the Tuition Equalization Grant Program, a bill to allow college students to work in order to continue their studies in the colleges of their choice. During World War II he served with the United States Naval Air Communications on Leyte and Samar, Philippines.
Murray was chairman of the Harlingen USO drive in 1943–44 and the Harlingen Community Chest drive in 1949–50. He was a member of the Executive Council of the University of Texas Ex-Students Association (1947–49, 1953). He belonged to the American Legion and the Lions Club (president, 1941, deputy district governor, 1943). He was also a member of the Cameron County Bar Association (president 1952–53) and the State Bar of Texas committee (1973–74). He was appointed by Governor Dolph Briscoe to the Texas Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board (1975–79) and was a member of the Tropical Texas Board of the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation (1979–89) as well as the boards of the Rio Grande State Center of MHMR and the Valley Rehabilitation Center (1985–89). Murray was a member of the Rio Grande Valley Museum Board, which he chaired until his death, and of the Cameron County Historical Commission. He belonged to St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Harlingen and to the Knights of Columbus. Murray was an avid Democrat and Cameron County chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee from 1946 to 1948. He received an honorary doctorate from St. Edward's University, Austin, in 1976 and was named "Boss of the Year" by the Harlingen Jaycees on June 19, 1969. He married Betty Marie Nosler on December 27, 1938. They had two children. He died on September 8, 1989, in Harlingen.