University of Texas, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History

A Guide to the William A. Morrison Papers, 1923-1924; 1948-1981

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Morrison (William A.)
Title: Morrison (William A.) Papers
Dates: 1923-1924; 1948-1981
Abstract: The personal and professional papers of William A. Morrison, Judge and Presiding Judge, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
Accession No.: 82-77, 82-310, 83-124, 83-243, 85-151
Extent: 15 ft.
Language: Materials are written in English.
Repository: Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Note

William Arthur Morrison (1909-1980) was born in Cameron, Texas, where his father was an attorney and his mother a teacher. After a year at Texas A&M, he transferred to the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a law degree in 1933. That same year he was admitted to the Texas bar, returned to Cameron, and was elected county attorney for Milam County in 1933. In 1934, Gov. Miriam "Ma" Ferguson appointed him district attorney of the Twentieth Judicial District of Texas and 1938 he was elected to the position.

Morrison resigned his position as district attorney in March 1942 to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II. While in the European theatre, he worked as a special agent in counter-intelligence and was at Normandy on D-Day and in Paris on the day of liberation. Following the war Morrison testified in the trials of seventeen Nazi collaborators that each resulted in the death penalty.

Following his discharge from the Army in 1945, Morrison practiced law in New York City for a year before returning to Texas. In 1948 he was again elected judge of the Twentieth Judicial District of Texas, a position he held until 1950. That year he became a judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, until his retirement in 1976. At age 41, he became the court's youngest presiding judge in 1955, serving to 1961. During his 26 years on the criminal appellate court, it is estimated that he heard more than 26,000 cases.

Morrison served as president of the Texas District and in County Attorneys Association and in leadership positions of the state bar. Off the bench, he enjoyed woodcutting, and was involved in the American Legion Boys' State. In 1938 he was married to Elizabeth Tinker who was on vacation from Little Rock, Arkansas. After a four-hour date, he asked her to marry him - and she said yes; his new bride became his secretary. After his divorce from his first wife, Morrison married Bess Clifton Sheppard, niece of U. S. Senator Morris Sheppard. Morrison died in Austin on November 11, 1980, at the age of seventy-one, and was buried in the Texas State Cemetery.


Jamil Center for Legal Research. “Justices of Texas, 1836-1986: William Arthur Morrison (1909-1980).” Tarlton Law Library, The University of Texas at Austin. (accessed June 7, 2010).

Texas State Cemetery. “William Morrison.” The State of Texas. (accessed June 7, 2010).

Scope and Contents

The William A. Morrison Papers, 1923-1924, 1948-1981 include receipts, deeds, legal documents, business and family correspondence, lantern slides, film strips, color slides of travels, personal files relating to insurance, family members, vacations, financial matters, Houston Bar Association, judicial campaigns, clippings, printed material, and financial documents.


Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Brooks, Helen Landrum
Coffield, H. H.
Erismann, Fred
Johnson, Sam Houston
Morrison, William A., 1909- -- Archives
Morrison, Fannie Stribling
Ramos, Robert
Ruby, Jack
Smith, James T.
Tessman, Charles
Subjects (Organizations)
Houston Bar Association
Banks and Banking
Criminal Law -- Texas
Insurance -- Texas
Judicial Campaigns -- Texas -- History -- Sources
Real Estate -- Texas -- 20th Century -- History
State Bar of Texas
Voter registration -- Texas
Austin (Tex.)

Separated Material

Some material has been separated to the Artifacts Collection, Map Collection, and Library Unit.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Morrison (William A.) Papers, 1923-1924; 1948-1981, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Processing Information

This is an unprocessed collection.

Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s "History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light" project, 2009-2011.

Detailed Description of the Papers



3S223 Photograph collection
3S342 Wooden box containing vacation postcards
2.325/A144 Lantern slides, film strips
2.325/A188 Ledgers and printed material
2.325/A196-A197 Correspondence, speeches, brochures, etc.
2.325/C41-C43 Personal files