Thomas M. Reavley, who served nine years on the Texas Supreme Court before serving more than 40 years on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, died December 1, 2020, in Houston. He was 99.
“Sailor, scholar, lawyer, advisor to governors and presidents, judge, writer—Tom Reavley was all these things, and always with unfailing wisdom, humility, civility, decency, kindness to all and good humor,” Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht said in a press release. “He was a towering figure in Texas and a true champion of justice for the state and country.”
Reavley, the oldest circuit judge on the federal bench, was born on June 21, 1921, in Quitman and grew up in the East Texas town of Nacogdoches. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1942 and then enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Reavley was discharged in 1946. He graduated with a law degree from Harvard in 1948.
He had a private practice in Nacogdoches before being elected as Nacogdoches County attorney. In 1955, Gov. Allan Shivers appointed Reavley secretary of state. He returned to private practice and had an unsuccessful run for Texas attorney general. In October 1968, Gov. John Connally appointed him to the Texas Supreme Court. In 1978, he was appointed a special judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, becoming one of the few judges to serve on both of the state’s high courts. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the 5th Circuit, where he took senior status in 1990.
Reavley was married for 60 years to Florence Wilson Reavley, who died in 2003. He married Carolyn Dineen King, the 5th Circuit chief judge, in 2004.
He was a prolific writer, served on the adjunct faculty of the University of Texas School of Law, and lectured at Baylor Law School, Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, and Texas Tech University School of Law.
Services are pending in Houston.