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Moses B. Walker (1819-1895)

Associate Justice, Texas Supreme Court, 1869-1874

Moses B. Walker, member of two Texas supreme courts during the turbulent era of Reconstruction, was born July 16, 1819, in Fairfield County, Ohio. He received a public school education in Cincinnati, and then attended Augusta College in Kentucky and Yale College (now Yale University). After three years at Yale, he attended Cincinnati Law School and read law in Springfield, Ohio. He practiced law in Dayton, Ohio from 1846-61 and served a term in the Ohio Senate from 1850-51.

During the Civil War Walker fought for the Union in the Ohio Infantry, was wounded several times, and held the brevet, or temporary, ranks of brigadier general of volunteers and lieutenant colonel before war's end. Following the war he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives, but was defeated. After his election loss, Walker returned to the military and participated in the federal military occupation of Texas in 1868.

In April 1869 Col. Walker was appointed judge of the Fourth Judicial District by the military commander when Texas came under military rule, and then was appointed to the Texas Supreme Court when Albert Latimer resigned in November of that year. This was the second of Texas' Reconstruction courts, often referred to as the Military Court. After the Constitution of 1869 reorganized the court, Governor Davis appointed Walker an associate justice in July 1870; this court, the third and final Reconstruction court, is commonly known as the Semicolon Court.

Walker 's most notable, and certainly most notorious, opinion was in the Semicolon case, which, predicated on the placement of a semicolon in Section 6, Article 3 of the 1869 Texas Constitution, ruled the 1873 gubernatorial election invalid.

When Gov. Coke took office he appointed a new supreme court, and both Walker's Texas judicial career and his five-year Texas residency ended. Walker returned to Kenton, Ohio, where he practiced law. He died there in 1895.

Notable opinions

"Semicolon Court" decision invalidating 1873 gubernatorial election (Ex parte Rodriguez 1873).

Moore v. Letchford, 35 Texas reports 216.

Ex parte Rodriguez, 39 Texas reports 705 (Tex. 1873) (finding original jurisdiction proper and subsequently discharging defendant charged with illegally voting multiple times at an election due to the fact that the election was invalid for being held at improper time and place as prescribed by the state Constitution, thus defendant broke no law).

Texas Constitution references -

  • Art III, §4, 6, 33
  • Art V, §3

Moore v. Letchford, 35 Texas reports 185 (Tex. 1871) (reversing in favor of plaintiff in trespass title action, where plaintiff held priority of lien as Act of 1860 was in force, thus staying plaintiff's judgment for land. Plaintiff did not lose his rights to the land in laches because the civil war suspended his recourse to remedies).

Sources

Campbell, Randolph B. Walker, Moses B., Handbook of Texas Online (last updated June 6, 2001).
http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/WW/fwa21.html

Norvell, James R. The Reconstruction Courts of Texas 1867-1873, 62 The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 141-163 (October, 1958).

Shelley, George E. The Semicolon Court of Texas, 48 The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 449-468 (April, 1945).

Extended bibliography

Speer, Ocie. Texas Jurists 60 (Austin, Texas: the author, 1936).

Additional information available in Southwestern Historical Quarterly as follow:
Volume 48, page 449, 451, 463
Volume 60, page 17
Volume 62, page 148, 157, 158, 160