White, John Preston (1832–1905)

By: Thomas W. Cutrer

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: November 1, 1995

John Preston White, jurist and Confederate soldier, was born at his family's plantation, Fruit Hill, near Abbington, Virginia, on March 7, 1832, the son of James L. and Margaret Rhea (Preston) White. In 1850 he graduated from Emory and Henry College, where he won the Robertson Medal for oratory. He then studied law at the University of Virginia, where he was selected to deliver the annual Jefferson Literary Society address. After leaving the university White read law for two years in the office of Samuel Logan before being admitted to the bar in 1853. That year he married Annie Stuart Lewis of Charlottesville, Virginia. The couple had seven children, three of whom became attorneys in Austin. White and his wife moved to Texas the same year, having visited the state for reasons of health in the winter of 1852, and settled at Seguin. There White built an extensive practice. When the Civil War broke out he raised and took command of Company E of Col. Robert R. Garland's Sixth Texas Infantry. White was captured at Fort Hindman at Arkansas Post, Arkansas, on January 11, 1863, but was exchanged in May of that year. He rejoined his unit, which was consolidated with the Tenth Texas Infantry of Mathew D. Ector's brigade, and served at the battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga and in the Atlanta campaign. After the war he returned to Texas, where Governor Richard Coke appointed him district judge in 1874, and in 1876 he was elected to the Court of Appeals. In 1879, upon the death of the incumbent, Mathew D. Ector, White was elected the first presiding judge of the Court of Appeals. He served for three terms-sixteen years-and resigned on April 26, 1892. The day after his resignation he was appointed reporter of the same court, afterward known as the Court of Criminal Appeals. About this time he moved to Austin. He wrote several legal textbooks, among them Condensed Reports Regarding Decisions in Civil Causes (1883–92), Code of Criminal Procedure in the State of Texas (1900), and Penal Code of the State of Texas (1901), all three of which were widely influential in the late nineteenth century. Judge White died at his home in Austin on January 16, 1905. He was an Episcopalian.

Sidney S. Johnson, Texans Who Wore the Gray (Tyler, Texas, 1907).

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

Thomas W. Cutrer, “White, John Preston,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/white-john-preston.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1995

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