Tarlton, Benjamin Dudley (1849–1919)

By: Brian Hart

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: July 1, 1995

Benjamin Dudley Tarlton, attorney, judge, and state representative, was born to John and Frances Ann (Caller) Tarlton in St. Mary's Parish, Louisiana, on October 18, 1849. He received a B.A. degree from St. Charles College in 1868. After studying law under Judge George Hudspeth in Opelousas, Louisiana, Tarlton entered the law department of the University of Louisiana (now Tulane University), where he graduated in 1872. He was admitted to the bar of his native state in April of that year. Tarlton moved in 1875 to Texas, where he practiced law first at Waxahachie and later at Hillsboro. In the latter community he was associated in practice with Joseph Abbott before forming a partnership with his brother, George Tarlton. He married Susan M. Littell of St. Landry's Parish, Louisiana, on April 24, 1877. The couple raised four children. In 1880 Tarlton was elected to the House of Representatives of the Seventeenth Texas Legislature. He won election to the same seat in the Nineteenth Legislature in 1884. During this period Tarlton also served as a member of the executive committee of the Democratic party of Texas. After an unsuccessful campaign for the judgeship of the Twenty-eighth Judicial District in 1888, he was appointed by Governor James S. Hogg to the post of chief justice of the Court of Civil Appeals for the Second District of Texas. The court was located in Fort Worth, and Tarlton moved there. He remained on the bench until his retirement in January 1899. He then entered private practice in Fort Worth and worked as an attorney until 1904, when he was appointed a professor of law at the University of Texas law school. While on the faculty of the university, Tarlton wrote a number of law textbooks that were adopted by several law schools, including the University of Texas. Tarlton was on the Texas coast in September 1919, when a hurricane came ashore just south of Corpus Christi. He subsequently contracted pneumonia and died at Beeville on September 22. He was buried in Fort Worth. On April 1, 1965, a memorial scholarship was established by the James R. Dougherty Foundation to honor Tarlton. The University of Texas Law Library was also named in his honor.

Dallas Morning News, September 24, 1919. A Memorial and Biographical History of Johnson and Hill Counties (Chicago: Lewis, 1892). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

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

Brian Hart, “Tarlton, Benjamin Dudley,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/tarlton-benjamin-dudley.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995