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Wood, James Ralph (1896–1973)


James Ralph Wood, lawyer and civic leader, son of Judson Hiram and Frances (Jones) Wood, was born on April 9, 1896, in Sherman; his grandfather, John Wright Wood, an Alabama lawyer, moved to Texas before the Civil War to farm in Rusk County. Wood was valedictorian of the Sherman High School graduating class in 1914 and attended the University of Texas at Austin. After returning from France, where he served as an infantry captain in World War I, he entered the University of Texas law school, graduating with an LL.B. degree in 1921. Wood practiced law with his father in Sherman until 1927, when he joined a Dallas law firm. In 1945 he became general counsel and vice president of Southwestern Life Insurance Company; he served as president of the company from 1948 to 1962, when he was named chairman of the board. In 1951 he served as a member of a grand jury that investigated the 1950 bombing of black middle-class people's homes in Dallas and then declined to make public its findings. Wood was a trustee of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (1956–58), the Southwestern Medical Foundation, the Texas Research Foundation, and the Southwestern Legal Foundation; he was a director of the Dallas Citizens Council, the State Fair of Texas, and the Dallas Grand Opera Association. He was also a member of the Dallas Historical Society and the Philosophical Society of Texas. Wood was married to Kathleen Cook on June 5, 1923; they had two sons. He died in Dallas on December 9, 1973.

Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Who's Who in America (1968–69).


  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • Probate and Insurance Law
  • Museums, Libraries, and Archives
  • Museums
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Civic Leaders

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

Anonymous, “Wood, James Ralph,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 01, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.