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October 14, 2009

In Memoriam: The Honorable William Wayne Justice, 1920-2009

Photo of The Honorable William Wayne Justice

The Honorable William Wayne Justice, 1920-2009. Photograph by Michael O'Brien

U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice, UT Law Class of 1942, a remarkable jurist and public servant for over fifty years, died yesterday in Austin.

Judge Justice was born in Athens, Texas, in 1920. He received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Texas, and served in the U.S. Army before returning to East Texas to practice law with his father and serve as city attorney in Athens.

President John F. Kennedy selected him as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, and President Lyndon B. Johnson then appointed him to the federal bench in 1968 in Tyler.

During his forty-one years on the federal bench, Justice worked courageously to protect civil rights, uphold constitutional freedoms, and ensure equal justice for all. His landmark rulings safeguarded the rights of minorities, the poor, and the politically powerless in many areas. Justice’s decisions addressed race discrimination in schools and housing, inhumane treatment in prisons and other facilities, the dilution of voting rights, inadequate education for immigrant and non-English speaking children, and the unnecessary institutionalization of the developmentally disabled. These rulings profoundly changed the landscape of Texas and the nation.

Justice was a staunch supporter of the Law School and the University, and a longtime fan of UT sports teams. He treated his former law clerks and staff as family and maintained close ties with them through the years. In 2004 Justice’s former law clerks and other admirers joined with the Law School to honor Justice by establishing the William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law at the University of Texas School of Law to promote equal justice through legal education, scholarship, and public service. Justice was very proud of this legacy at his alma mater, and was very interested in the Justice Center’s students, faculty, and activities.

The funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, October 19, 2009, at St. David’s Episcopal Church in downtown Austin.

Related link:

Austin American Statesman: Judge Justice dies at 89, October 14, 2009


Eden Harrington, Director of the William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law, UT Law, (512) 232-7068,

Kirston Fortune, UT Law Communications, 512-471-7330 or