The Handbook of Texas is free-to-use thanks to the support of readers like you. Support the Handbook today.

Font size: A / A reset

Support Texas History Now

Join TSHA to support quality Texas history programs and receive exclusive benefits.

Become a TSHA Member Today »

Phillips, Nelson (1873–1939)

Kaye A. Walker Biography Entry

Nelson Phillips, lawyer and jurist, son of Charles Edward and Jennie L. (Arrington) Phillips, was born on May 3, 1873, at Jefferson, Texas. He was educated in public schools at Hillsboro and attended Bingham Military Academy at Mebane, North Carolina, for two years. He worked in his father's bank and read law at night until 1895, when he was admitted to the bar and became a law partner of Thomas S. Smith. In 1904 S. W. T. Lanham appointed Phillips to fill an unexpired term as judge of the Eighteenth Judicial District. From 1905 to 1909 Phillips was a law partner of Yancy Lewis; he practiced alone until April 3, 1912, when O. B. Colquitt appointed him associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court. Phillips was elected to the office in November 1912, was appointed chief justice on May 27, 1915, and was elected to the office in 1916 and in 1918. He resigned to resume private practice in 1921. On October 21, 1896, he married Susie McFadden at Milford; they had one son. Phillips died in Dallas on March 31, 1939, and was buried there in Hillcrest Memorial Park.

Sam Hanna Acheson, Herbert P. Gambrell, Mary Carter Toomey, and Alex M. Acheson, Jr., Texian Who's Who, Vol. 1 (Dallas: Texian, 1937). National Cyclopaedia of American Biography (New York: White, 1891-), Vol. 29. Texas Bar Journal, May 1939.


  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Politics and Government
  • Judges


  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

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

Kaye A. Walker, “Phillips, Nelson,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: