TABLE OF CONTENTS
W.C. Morrow Papers:
An Inventory of W.C. Morrow Papers at the Texas State Archives, 1900-1919, bulk 1915-1916
Wright Chalfant Morrow was born in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, on October 12, 1858, to William and Gabrielle Morrow. At the age of 17, W.C. Morrow went to live with his aunt in Fort Worth, Texas. After several months in Fort Worth, Morrow moved to Hill County, where he ran a drug store. In 1884, he married Fanietta Tarlton, and together they had four children: John Tarlton, William C., Wright F., and Lyde G. Morrow studied law in Hillsboro, Texas, and attended law school at the University of Virginia. Upon his graduation, Morrow returned to Hillsboro and began practicing law with his brothers-in-law at their firm Tarlton, Tarlton, and Morrow. His brother-in-law Benjamin Dudley Tarlton would go on to have a distinguished legal career, with the University of Texas Law School named in his honor. At this time, most of Morrow's cases related to land disputes. One such case, concerning a dispute over the ownership of a homestead, reached the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 1900.
Morrow was first elected as District Judge of Hill County in 1897 on the Democratic ticket. He was re-elected in 1889 but resigned shortly after to start the firm Wear, Morrow, and Smithdeal. After practicing with this firm for a few years, Morrow was elected and served as a state senator for Hill, Ellis, and Johnson Counties from 1912 until 1916. While in office, he served on several committees, including the labor, public roads, towns and city corporation, and judiciary committees. He also served as the senate president pro tempore during his first term. While in office, Morrrow helped to draft and pass Senate Bill 166, which revised the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' reversal policy. It held that "the case shall not be reversed unless an error was committed calculated to injure the rights of the defendant, and not then unless the error was pointed out in objections made as the charge was given, or in the refusal of special charges requested, made at the time of trial." After his final term, he briefly practiced law with his sons John Tarlton, William C., and Wright F. Morrow.
In 1916, Morrow ran successfully for the office of judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals. He served in this position until 1921, at which time he was appointed presiding judge of the court. Morrow supported the Robertson Law, which required out of state life insurance companies operating in Texas to invest 75% of their Texas revenues in Texas securities. At the time of his first re-election, he received the largest number of votes for a state office in Texas to that date, demonstrating his favor among his constituents. The Ku Klux Klan, while choosing not to endorse him, listed him as being "favorable" to their interests during the 1916 campaign. However, during his first term in office, Morrow held Klan members accountable for their actions, and he thus lost this status among Klan members in subsequent elections.
Morrow is best known for his role in establishing the rule that all motions for rehearing should be considered by a judge other than the judge who heard the original case. He also established the right to present oral arguments for rehearing motions. As a lawyer and judge, Morrow was noted for his dedication to the letter of the law. His son Wright Morrow described his father as someone who "cleave[d] to the integrity of the law and to that alone." He believed in enforcing the law to the fullest extent. Governor Dan Moody, a close personal friend of his, recalled in his memorial address, "The Constitution was the touchstone of his official action. He was not a legislating judge, for over and over again his opinions revealed his belief that laws should be made by legislators and not by judges."
Morrow continued to serve as presiding judge at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin, until his retirement in 1939. W.C. Morrow died on October 6, 1942, at his home in Hillsboro.
(Sources include: "Executive Secretary,"Texas Bar Journal 1, no. 2 (February 1938): 44-58; Wright C. Morrow Papers, 1922-1942, Tarlton Law Library, the University of Texas at Austin; The Paris News, October 7, 1942; "W.C. Morrow," Legislative Reference Library of Texas; Harwood, Brown. "To All Exalted Cyclops," Hearst's International 131 (July 10, 1933); Townes Hall Notes (Austin, TX). "Three New Professionships Given Law School." December 1967, 2nd edition, 1-2; Fisher, O.C., "Extension of Remarks," Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the 90th Congress, Second Session Volume 114, Part 2 (January 31, 1968): 1738-39, all websites accessed on February 19, 2020.)
Wright Chalfant Morrow was a lawyer, Democratic state senator, and judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The W.C. Morrow papers predominantly reflect his campaign efforts and his personal and professional financial interests. The papers span the years 1900-1919, with the bulk of the materials from the years 1915 to 1916. The papers contain letters, notes, Christmas cards, bills, and receipts.
The bulk of the papers consists of correspondence received by Morrow and his son Tarlton Morrow regarding Morrow's 1916 candidacy for judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals. There are also several letters addressed to other Morrow supporters, typically other members of the Texas Bar or government, discussing his candidacy. Morrow retroactively marked each letter with the county from which they originated.
Financial correspondence and related records document Morrow's professional and personal financial interests between 1916 and 1919. His professional purchases consisted of items such as stenographic services, posters (likely for his 1916 campaign), and letterhead. Personal purchases varied considerably, including dry cleaning services, newspaper subscriptions, country club memberships, and drugstore recipes. This series also includes several letters regarding his search for an apartment or a home in Austin, Texas.
Personal correspondence includes Christmas cards, an announcement, and a calling card, which Morrow received from friends, colleagues, and businesses in 1918.
Records detailing the proceedings of the court cases State of Texas v. J.R. Vinsant and Abe Little v. State of Texas, dated 1900-1901, were transferred to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals records.
Restrictions on Access
Restrictions on Use
Under the Copyright Act of 1976 as amended in 1998, unpublished works are protected for the life of the author plus 70 years. The term of copyright for published material varies. Researchers are responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).
(Identify the item and cite the series), W.C. Morrow papers. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession number: 2020/046
The accession file for the W.C. Morrow papers was reported missing on October 17, 1970. Because the accession file was lost, there is no deed of gift or donor information available. The papers were likely obtained sometime after W.C. Morrow's death in 1942. An accession number was assigned for control purposes on March 10, 2020.
Inventoried by Archives staff, date unknown
Processed and finding aid prepared by University of Texas School of Information students Laura Grove and Anne Morgan, 2019 November