Justice Jack Pope, a legal legend who spent 38 years as a Texas judge — including a politics-defying two-year stint as the Texas Supreme Court’s chief justice — died Saturday at age 103 in Austin.
Andrew Jackson Pope Jr. was born to Dr. A.J. and Ruth Pope in Abilene, Texas in 1913, the year Henry Ford revolutionized automobile manufacturing with the assembly line and the year road-builders completed the first coast-to-coast paved highway.
Justice Pope graduated from public schools in Abilene and earned a BA degree from Abilene Christian College in 1934 (now "Abilene Christian University"), my alma mater. He is possibly the most beloved alumnus of ACU. In a sense, he never left his hometown, serving for years as a trustee on the Abilene Christian University board. Most of his library and papers were donated to the university.
Justice Pope obtained a law degree from the University of Texas in 1937 after having been the editor of the Texas Law Review. While in Austin he met a recent graduate, Allene Nichols. They married June 11, 1938 and began a loving partnership that lasted 66 years.
Governor Coke Stevenson appointed Pope Judge of the 94th District Court. In 1960, Justice Pope was elected to the Fourth Court of Civil Appeals in San Antonio and again elected in 1964 to the Texas Supreme Court. Governor Bill Clements appointed Judge Jack Pope in 1982 as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. His 38 year service is believed to be the longest service of any Judge who has served on Texas' highest court.
After Justice Pope retired he developed the Pope Fellows at ACU, which give scholarships to students interested in a career in public service. In 2010 the State Bar of Texas awarded him the Lifetime Achievement Award. On his 100th birthday all the living U.S. Presidents and their wives sent letters thanking the Judge for his life of service and giving.
A lifetime of service indeed. Justice Pope led a life that all lawyers would do well to emulate. May he rest in peace.