James Patterson Alexander (1883-1948), chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, was born in Moody, McLennan County, Texas, on April 21, 1883, the son of John Newton and Mary (Patterson) Alexander. He attended Baylor University in 1901 and received a law degree from the University of Texas in 1908. After a summer of postgraduate work at the University of Chicago in 1908, he began a law practice in McGregor. He moved his practice to Waco in 1911 and was elected county judge of McLennan County in 1916. He married Elizabeth Akin of Waco on August 2, 1916, and they had two daughters. From 1920 to 1924 Alexander served as judge for the Nineteenth District Court.
He retired to private practice in 1924 but in 1930 became an associate justice of the Tenth Court of Civil Appeals at Waco. From 1920 to 1940 he was a member of the Baylor law faculty. While there, he taught civil trial procedure and instituted a series of student practice trials. In 1940 he was elected chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, in which he served until his death. One of his primary concerns was to revise the code of civil procedure so that cases would move through the judicial process more efficiently. Alexander was a Baptist, a Mason, and a member of the Philosophical Society of Texas. He also served as director of the State Bar of Texas and as president of the National Council of Judicial Councils. He farmed and raised bees as a hobby. He died in Austin on January 1, 1948, and was buried in the State Cemetery.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 51. Vertical Files, Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin. A. L. Weinberger.
Reprinted with permission from the Handbook of Texas Online, a joint project of the Texas State Historical Association and the General Libraries at the University of Texas at Austin. © 2003, The Texas State Historical Association.