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Tom L. Beauchamp (1882-1964)

Judge, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, 1939-1953

Tom L. Beauchamp was born August 24, 1882, the son of tenant farmers in Pulaski, Tennessee. He attended school in Lamar County, Texas, along the Oklahoma border approximately 100 miles northeast of Dallas, where his family had relocated. He entered Sam Houston State Teachers College in Huntsville when he was nineteen years old. He returned to Paris, the county seat of Lamar County, where he taught school, worked as a reporter for the Paris News and the Paris Daily Advocate, and edited two weekly Lamar County newspapers, the Roxton Wide-Awake and the Petty Enterprise in the early 1900s. He was married, and had two children.

Beauchamp worked as a deputy county clerk in Lamar County, and entered the practice of law with B. B. Sturgeon, who had served as Lamar county attorney in 1890. Beauchamp was elected Lamar county judge in 1914. In 1932, Beauchamp entered into law practice with his son, Tom L. Beauchamp, Jr., in Tyler, Texas. He served on the Texas State Park board, and was influential in promoting Big Bend as a national park. He was also active in the Boy Scouts, and served on its national board.

In 1939, Beauchamp was serving as an assistant attorney general when Gov. W. Lee O'Daniel appointed him Secretary of State. Later that year, however, O'Daniel appointed him to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Beauchamp was elected to the court in 1940, and was re-elected in 1946. As a judge, Beauchamp was known for his dissent in Ex parte Craig, (193 S.W. 2nd 178), a case involving judicial limitations and freedom of the press which was reversed by the United States Supreme Court. He also was associated with the McDonald will case, which resulted in The University of Texas securing a $1 million bequest with which McDonald Observatory was built. Beauchamp was remembered for his kindly attitude and for upholding the dignity of the law.

After serving thirteen years on the court, Beauchamp retired in January 1953. He returned to Paris, where he owned a ranch. Beauchamp died April 26, 1964, at the age of eighty-one, in a Paris hospital after suffering an illness the day before. He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Paris, Texas.

Notable opinions

Ex parte Craig, 150 Tex. Cr. 598, 193 S. W. 2d 178, dissenting opinion.

Sources

Beauchamp, Tom L. vertical file. Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin .