Robert E. L. “R.E.L.” Roy, legislator, attorney, and judge, son of John C. Roy and Amanda Catherine (Elliott) Roy, was born in Johnson Station, a settlement near Arlington in Tarrant County, Texas, on August 22, in either 1869 or 1870. His death certificate lists the year of birth as 1869, while his gravestone lists 1870. He was the second of nine children. Roy married Susan “Susie” Murphey on June 1, 1895, and they had one daughter, Margaret Louise Roy, in 1903. He spent most of his life working in the legal profession in Tarrant County.
While a student at the University of Texas, Roy gave political speeches and even clerked for the Internal Improvements Committee in the Texas Senate. He also played on the first University of Texas football team in 1893. He earned a bachelor of law degree from the university’s law department and then passed the bar exam.
Upon returning to Tarrant County, Roy settled in Arlington and promptly gained the Democratic nomination to run for the legislature’s District 78 House seat. He won the general election and joined the legislature as a silverite and staunch supporter of Governor James S. Hogg, aligning himself with the progressive wing of the Democratic party. He served on a variety of committees: Contingent Expenses; Education; Insurance, Statistics, and History; Judicial Districts; Judiciary No. 1; and a special committee appointed to investigate the disappearance of legislator T. R. Watkins. In his bill proposals he generally sought small and fairly specific reforms to the legal code during his single term as a legislator. Yet, his proposals rarely made it out of committee and, when they did, often died on the speaker’s table. Most notably, when Roy agreed to sponsor the House version of Populist leader Thomas Nugent’s bill to regulate building and loans operating in Texas, the bill withered under stiff opposition. The one exception was a bill to regulate “natural premium or business assessment life and accident insurance companies.” Roy defended the bill through a vigorous series of amendments only to have it ultimately vetoed by the governor.
Following his brief legislative career, Roy returned to Tarrant County to practice law. He worked as assistant county attorney until Jeff McLean, the county attorney, was slain in a raid on a gambling hall. Roy assumed the office of county attorney and held the position through two subsequent elections. He then worked in private practice until 1916 when he succeeded James W. Swayne, under whom he had clerked for the Senate’s Internal Improvements Committee while in college, as judge of the Seventeenth District Court. Roy was planning to run for a fourth term as district judge when he died of a stroke at his home on May 5, 1928. Roy belonged to a number of fraternal organizations, including the Masons, the Woodmen of the World, the Elks, and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He was buried with Masonic services in East Oakwood Cemetery in Fort Worth. At the time of his death, Robert Roy was fondly remembered as an upstanding member of the Fort Worth legal community.
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Beaumont Journal, May 5, 1928. Gregg Cantrell, The People’s Revolt: Texas Populists and the Roots of American Liberalism (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2020). Dallas Morning News, November 11, 1894. Fort Worth Daily Gazette, July 3, 1894. Fort Worth Record-Telegram, May 5, 7, 1928. Galveston Daily News, March 19, 1893; July 6, 1894. House Journal of the State of Texas Twenty-Fourth Legislature, (Austin: Ben C. Jones & Co. State Printers, 1895). Legislative Reference Library of Texas: Robert Roy (https://lrl.texas.gov/legeLeaders/members/memberDisplay.cfm?memberID=3573&searchparams=chamber=~city=~countyID=0~RcountyID=~district=~first=~gender=~last=roy~leaderNote=~leg=~party=~roleDesc=~Committee=), accessed October 28, 2020.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Roy, Robert E. L.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 23, 2022,
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