Ramsey, William Franklin (1855–1922)

By: Brian Hart

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: September 1, 1995

William Franklin Ramsey, lawyer, judge, and banker, was born to John J. and Nancy (Clark) Ramsey in Bell County, Texas, on October 25, 1855. After his father joined a mercantile business in Alvarado, the family moved to Johnson County, where Ramsey attended community schools. He attended Trinity University at Tehuacana and graduated with a B.A. degree in 1876, a law degree in 1877, and an M.A. in 1883. In 1877 he entered private law practice in Cleburne. He married Emma Johnson of Paris, Texas, on January 28, 1878. The couple had one son. Ramsey began his legal career with the firm of Brown, Hall, and Ramsey, which was reorganized six years later as Brown, Ramsey, and Crane and again in 1885 as Crane and Ramsey. Ramsey's wife died that year, and on October 13, 1886, he married Rowena Hill of La Grange, Fayette County. They had six children. Ramsey built "a large and growing practice" by the early twentieth century. From January 20, 1907, to January 1, 1908, he served as chairman of the board of commissioners of the prison system. He was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and began serving on January 1, 1908; the following November he won election to the seat. He resigned this position prior to the expiration of his term, however, to accept appointment as an associate judge of the Texas Supreme Court in January 1911. He remained on the bench for just over a year before resigning, on March 29, 1912, to seek the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. As a prohibition candidate, he was defeated by the incumbent, Oscar B. Colquitt. He entered private practice with his son, S. D. Ramsey, in Austin on October 1, 1912. Ramsey also worked as a banker in Johnson County. By 1900 he held concurrent positions as president of the National Bank of Cleburne, the First National Bank of Covington, and the Farmers and Traders Bank of Rio Vista. He resigned from all of these institutions after his appointment to the Court of Criminal Appeals in 1907. His experience in banking, however, likely figured heavily in his appointment as chairman of the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas on January 15, 1916. Ramsey was a Presbyterian, a Mason, an Elk, a Knight of Pythias, and a member of the Improved Order of Red Men and the Woodmen of the World. He died at his home in Dallas on October 27, 1922, and was buried in Cleburne. He was the father-in-law of United States attorney general and supreme court justice Thomas C. Clark and the grandfather of United States attorney general Ramsey Clark.

Dallas Morning News, October 28, 1922. Lewis E. Daniell, Texas-The Country and Its Men (Austin?, 1924?). Ellis A. Davis and Edwin H. Grobe, comps., The Encyclopedia of Texas (2 vols., 1922?). Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (5 vols., ed. E. C. Barker and E. W. Winkler [Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1914; rpt. 1916]). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Politics and Government
  • Judges
  • Lawyers
  • General Law
  • 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.

Brian Hart, “Ramsey, William Franklin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 30, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/ramsey-william-franklin.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995

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