William Wayne Justice, Judge Who Remade Texas, Dies at 89


William Wayne Justice, a federal district judge who ruled on ground-breaking class-action suits that compelled Texas to integrate schools, reform prisons, educate illegal immigrants and revamp many other policies, died Tuesday in Austin. He was 89.

Luz Probus, his judicial assistant, confirmed the death.

Judge Justice had presided over cases in Austin until shortly before his death, having taken senior status there in 1998.

Judge Justice was a small-town lawyer active in Democratic Party politics when President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him to the federal bench of the Eastern District of Texas in 1968. Sitting in Tyler, Tex., he came to be called the most powerful man in Texas by those who agreed with his largely liberal decisions and the most hated by those who differed.

In a 1998 column in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Molly Ivins made what she called the “painfully obvious point” that Judge Justice had lived up to his name, saying he “brought the United States Constitution to Texas.”

The same year, Lino Graglia, a constitutional law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News, “He has wreaked more havoc and misery and injury to the people of Texas than any man in the last 25 years.”

If Judge Justice seemed high-handed, it was partly because he believed that the founding fathers had wanted judges to seize and command the higher ground. Perhaps not surprising, people reacted with hate mail, death threats, ostracism and bumper stickers demanding his impeachment.

“The plain fact of the matter is that the majority is sometimes wrong,” Judge Justice declared in an interview with The New York Times in 1982.

Frank R. Kemerer, who wrote “William Wayne Justice: A Judicial Biography” (1991), said in an interview on Wednesday, “He had a transcendent value, which was to advance human dignity and provide a measure of basic fairness.”...

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