On a beautiful autumn day in November, Ed Pickett drove from his office in Liberty to the Texas Law Center in Austin with a car full of treasure. Accompanied by his wife, Sandra, Pickett arrived at the State Bar of Texas headquarters and then headed into the underground parking garage, backed into a spot near the elevators, and popped the trunk of their sedan to unveil something quite miraculous by today’s standards: his family’s collection of Texas Bar Journals dating back to the magazine’s very first issue in 1938.
The assortment was started by Ed’s grandfather, Edward B. Pickett III, who graduated from the University of Texas School of Law around 1899 and practiced law in Liberty until his death in 1951. It was continued by Ed’s attorney father, Brad Pickett (a 1936 grad of the University of Texas School of Law) and then by Ed and his brother, attorney Carl N. Pickett, and later by Carl’s son, attorney Logan Pickett.
Being only 11 years old when E.B. Pickett III died, Ed doesn’t recall exactly why his grandfather stored the magazines year after year.
“He kept everything, so why not keep Bar Journals,” he said. “There are lots of interesting things in there. I enjoyed being able to follow what’s happening to old friends. You don’t see many of my contemporaries any more in the Journal. They’re all pretty much retired.”
The Pickett family decided to donate the magazines to the State Bar of Texas Archives Department, which—although it is the official archives of the magazine—had an incomplete supply of unbound Texas Bar Journals. Until now.
“Our collection of unbound, original Bar Journals is pretty scattered up until about five years ago,” said State Bar Archives Director Caitlin Bumford. “This is going to be essential to help us fill in the gaps and have things that we can scan as needed. And even seeing the covers—the full covers of all the Bar Journals—is going to be excellent. In addition to being information sources, they’re artifacts; the physical items are of value.”
The archives department does have two complete runs of bound magazines, which consist of annual volumes bound by hard covers. Unbound Bar Journals, the format mailed to every member of the State Bar, are most familiar to the state’s attorneys. The Picketts stored their magazines in binders for safekeeping.
The Pickett family’s Texas Bar Journals were first kept in E.B. Pickett III’s office in the second story of the non-air-conditioned, brick Autry Building in downtown Liberty at Main and Travis streets (built circa 1904). When the current Pickett law office was built in 1951, the collection was moved there. The firm’s law library is diverse and expansive, featuring leather-bound Southwestern Reporters dating back to the first issues as well as a range of books on topics from speech writing to politics. According to Ed’s wife, he is the “pseudo archivist” of the firm.
“He is intent on making sure things are organized where people can get to them, that he can find them, and that they’re going to be preserved in good condition,” Sandra said.
On the day they donated the magazines to the State Bar of Texas, Ed and Sandra sat in the basement of the Texas Law Center, where the archives department is housed, and told Bumford and current TBJ staff about their family history. The first Edward B. Pickett, Ed’s great-great-grandfather, came to Texas from Tennessee around 1850 after fighting in the U.S.-Mexican War. He was passing through Liberty and realized he liked the town, so he went back to Tennessee, married his wife, and returned to Texas to open a law office in one of the first brick buildings in Liberty. Pickett went on to fight in the Civil War and serve as president of the Texas Constitutional Convention of 1875, followed by time in the Legislature.
“The only negative in his history,” Ed joked, “was that he was the first president of the board of Texas A&M; I’m a Longhorn.”
The first E.B. Pickett had a son, who was not a lawyer but was a district and county clerk. Then came Edward B. Pickett III, Ed’s attorney grandfather who started the TBJ collection, followed by Ed’s father, who also practiced law in Liberty. Ed practices real estate, business, and probate law, while Carl Pickett is an attorney, a CPA, and the mayor of Liberty. Logan, Carl’s son, practiced with the family firm for a while but then realized he preferred criminal law. He is now district attorney of Liberty County and one of the youngest DAs in Texas.
In addition to its Bar Journal donation, the Pickett family also recently donated to UT’s Tarlton Law Library Archive their grandfather’s correspondence records, speeches, photographs, and more, which they estimate to be the only such collection of a 20th century lawyer. Ed said the incoming letters are on original letterheads, which in those days were more ornate, and his outgoing correspondence was on carbon paper.
“The most interesting thing,” Ed said, “is how people spoke and wrote in those days. It was much more flowery language.”
Because Ed and Sandra couldn’t fit the entire Bar Journal collection in their car, they will be delivering the remaining magazines, dating from 1990 onward, in the new year.