Happy Birthday/Senior Status Judge Means

The official portrait of U.S. District Judge Terry Means was hung last month in his second floor courtroom in Fort Worth’s Eldon B. Mahon U.S. Courthouse, memorializing his 22 years of service on the federal trial court bench. Now, the only thing left for Means to do is to celebrate his birthday on July 3 — the day he’ll turn 65 and officially take senior status. On that day, Means will begin taking a reduced civil docket but will keep a full criminal docket — one he shares with U.S. District Judge John McBryde. “I’m looking forward to slowing down a little and doing things that I’ve been putting off most of my life,” Means says. For Means that includes writing three books: one about constitutional reform, another about U.S. presidential campaigns, and the last about an unlikely youth soccer team from Corsicana led by an inexperienced coach wearing boots and a cowboy hat who took the kids all the way to a state championship. “Those are all big time commitments. Whether or not I get them done, I don’t know. But that’s what I hope to do,” Means says. Means, who then-President George H.W. Bush appointed to the bench in 1991, says he’ll move to a fifth-floor courtroom when his replacement is named. He’s looking forward to that move because that’s where courthouse namesake Eldon B. Mahon last presided before his death in 2005. Mahon is beloved in Fort Worth, and the city’s Inn of Court is named after him. “I consider it an honor,” Means says.

RIP Major William Douglas Jefferson

If you’ve ever heard Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson give a speech, you may be familiar with retired U.S. Air Force Major William Douglas Jefferson. He’s the father who made Texas’ highest ranking civil judge who he is. Bill Jefferson died on June 26 at the age of 81. His military job took him and his young family all over the United States during the late 1950s and early 1960s, during a time of racial segregation. Yet the enlisted man excelled in the military, where “arbitrary classifications were banished; merit prevailed” according to a notice posted on the Texas Supreme Court’s website. In 1968, Bill Jefferson wrote a letter to Time magazine in which he praised the “unsurpassed accomplishments” of the civil rights movement, but observed that the U.S. Constitution is a document written for all citizens that “imparts responsibilities as well as rights.” After his retirement from the military, Bill Jefferson later became an insurance underwriter and financial planner who volunteered for decades with the Salvation Army. It was Bill Jefferson’s interest in genealogy which led to often-mentioned historical revelation about his family. “He discovered in the late 1980s that he was the descendant of a Waco slave, Shedrick Willis, whose owner was a state court judge. Bill marveled in the irony that his son, Wallace B. Jefferson, is now chief justice of the Supreme Court of Texas,” the notice states. Lamont Jefferson, the administrative partner for the San Antonio office of Haynes and Boone, says his father was a simple man who was devoted to his wife and “influenced by example.” “And he wasn’t all that expressive, frankly. But, everything about his stature commanded respect. From his posture to his slow delivery of speech, he didn’t give much instruction, but he delivered a message so powerfully it was hard to miss,” Lamont Jefferson says. And when his children could afford to take him out to fancy dinners, that’s not what their dad wanted, Lamont Jefferson says. “What he wanted was to go to Bill Miller Bar-B-Q and eat chocolate. Give him Bill Miller Bar-B-Q and chocolate, and he was a happy man.” Wallace Jefferson was not available for comment.