Robertson, French Martel (1901–1976)

By: Katharyn Duff

Type: Biography

Published: June 1, 1995

Updated: January 19, 2019

French M. Robertson, lawyer, oil producer, and Democratic party leader, son of John E. and Eulah Elizabeth (Hudson) Robertson, was born in Stonewall County, Texas, on July 4, 1901. He graduated from high school at Mineral Wells and attended Baylor University for two years and the University of Oklahoma for one year. He graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 1927 and was admitted to the State Bar of Texas that same year. He served two terms as Haskell county attorney before going into private practice in Haskell. He married Mary Louise Lowe of De Leon in 1929, and they had three children. In 1937 Robertson became an independent oil producer and established the Robertson Oil Company. He volunteered for service in the United States Air Corps during World War II and attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. After he was discharged in 1946 he moved his family to Abilene. He was active in the Young Democrats and was elected state committeeman from the Twenty-fourth Senatorial District in the late 1940s. He served on the state Democratic executive committee for a decade. Governor Beauford H. Jester named him to the Texas Prison Board in 1947 to help reform the prison system. He was reappointed by Governor R. Allan Shivers and, as chairman of the board, led an effort to improve and modernize the penal system. He was named to the Board for State Hospitals and Special Schools (later the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation) in 1957 and was chairman when his term expired in 1963. He was southwest regional director of civil defense from 1948 to 1954 and served on the University of Texas Board of Regents from 1961 to 1964.

As an oilman Robertson implemented one of the early waterflood projects in the Goldsboro oilfield in Coleman County. He was active in the Sharon Ridge field in Scurry and Mitchell counties and made discoveries in the Robertson-Grissom (Jud) field in Haskell County in 1963 and the Robertson-Griffin (Gray) field in Coleman and Taylor counties in 1953. Governor Price Daniel named him chairman of the Governor's Oil Import Study Commission in 1958. Robertson was an organizer and president from 1949 to 1951 of the West Central Texas Oil and Gas Association, vice president of the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners, and a president of the Texas Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association. He was named outstanding citizen of Abilene in 1957. He was a member of the executive committee for the Texas Law Enforcement Foundation and the Texas Medical Research Foundation. He was a Mason and a Thirty-second-degree Shriner, a member of the Episcopal Church, and a member of the Philosophical Society of Texas. He died in Abilene on February 28, 1976, and was buried in Haskell. A maximum security prison near Abilene was named for him in 1992.

Abilene Reporter-News, February 29, 1976. Katharyn Duff, Abilene...On Catclaw Creek: A Profile of a West Texas Town (Abilene, Texas: Reporter Publishing, 1969). Who's Who in America, 1962–63.


  • Education
  • School Trustees and Regents
  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Prison Administrators and Reformers

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

Katharyn Duff, “Robertson, French Martel,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 27, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995
January 19, 2019