Potts, Charles Shirley (1872–1963)

By: Joseph W. McKnight

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: June 16, 2020

Charles Shirley Potts, lawyer and teacher, was born near Weatherford on September 22, 1872, the son of Charles Brooke and Elizabeth Matilda (Shirley) Potts. He had his basic education at Weatherford College and Parker Institute and became a teacher in and near Parker County. In 1902 he graduated with B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Texas, then became an assistant professor of economics and history at Texas A&M College. He graduated from the University of Texas law school in 1909; he joined the political science faculty there in 1911 and the law faculty in 1914. In 1922 he was a founding member of the Texas Law Review and served as first chairman of its editorial board. He earned an S.J.D. degree at Harvard Law School in 1926 and joined the faculty of law at Washington University in St. Louis. In 1927 he was named dean of the School of Law at Southern Methodist University. His reputation was a significant factor in the school's securing approval of the American Bar Association and membership in the Association of American Law Schools. The greatest achievement of his deanship was the phasing-out of proprietary legal education in Dallas and the institution of high-standard evening legal education by the law school in 1938. Potts guided the school through the difficult years of World War II and, though he had reached the age for retirement in 1942, stayed on until 1947 after assembling a faculty to meet the deluge of applicants for legal education at the war's end. He taught and wrote principally in the fields of criminal law and procedure and constitutional law, and he brought to these subjects a great diversity of learning and teaching experience. He worked in the impeachment proceedings against Governor James E. Ferguson and toward reform of Texas procedural law, particularly in the field of criminal law. In 1916 he married Ada Hardeman Garrison, daughter of George P. Garrison; they had two children. Potts died on May 9, 1963, in Dallas and was buried there.

Arthur L. Harding, "Charles Shirley Potts: A Memoir," Southwestern Law Journal 16 (December 1962). Roy R. Ray, "Charles Shirley Potts," Texas Bar Journal 26 (September 1963).

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

Joseph W. McKnight, “Potts, Charles Shirley,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 27, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/potts-charles-shirley.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 16, 2020

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