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Robertson, Theodore Zanderson (1921–2017)

Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell Biography Entry

Theodore (Ted Z.) Zanderson Robertson, jurist and Texas Supreme Court justice, was born in San Antonio, Texas, on September 28, 1921. He was the son of Erion Randolph Robertson and Aurelia Robertia (Zanderson) Robertson. He was the great-great grandson of Sterling Clack Robertson, the founder of Robertson’s Colony, who signed both the Texas Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the Republic of Texas and fought at the battle of San Jacinto.

Theodore Robertson attended public schools in San Antonio and earned a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University. At the beginning of World War II, he joined the United States Coast Guard. A Japanese torpedo struck his ship, the USS Etamin, off the coast of the Philippines in 1944, and he survived by floating on a raft until he was rescued.

Following the war, Robertson received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law in 1949 and was admitted to the Texas bar. He practiced law privately in San Antonio and Dallas until 1960 when he became chief of the civil department of the Dallas County district attorney’s office. While at that office in 1963, he participated in determining the charges filed against Lee Harvey Oswald after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Robertson began his career as a judge in Dallas County in 1965. Over the years, he served as a probate judge, a juvenile court judge, a district court judge (1975), and a civil appeals court judge (1976). In 1982 Governor William P. Clements appointed him as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court. Robertson was later elected to a six-year term on the Texas Supreme Court. In 1988 he ran for chief justice but lost to Republican Tom Phillips. According to observers, Robertson, a Democrat, was part of a centrist-liberal majority on the court that expanded personal injury liability; broadened consumers’ rights in cases concerning products liability, deceptive trade, and insurance coverage; and granted juries much broader powers (which were later curtailed by the more conservative justices who succeeded him). Robertson was the first graduate of the St. Mary’s University School of Law to sit on the Texas Supreme Court, and in 1981 the university named him an outstanding alumnus.

Robertson was married twice; first to Avis Cole in 1957, and, after her death in 1988, to Margie Brewer Gardner. He had no children by either wife, but he had a large family of relatives. Judge Robertson died in his sleep at his home in Dallas on October 13, 2017, two weeks after celebrating his ninety-sixth birthday.

Michelle Casady, “Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Robertson Dies At 96,” Law360 (https://www.law360.com/articles/975207/former-texas-supreme-court-justice-robertson-dies-at-96), accessed October 27, 2017. Dallas Morning News, October 19, 2017. San Antonio Express-News, October 20, 2017. 

Categories:

  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Politics and Government
  • Judges
  • Lawyers
  • Criminal Law and District Attorneys

Time Periods:

  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II

Places:

  • 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.

Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell, “Robertson, Theodore Zanderson,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/robertson-theodore-zanderson.

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January 23, 2018

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