Andrew Jackson "Jack" Pope, Jr. (1913-), twenty-third chief justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, was born April 18, 1913, in Abilene, Texas to Dr. Andrew Jackson Pope, Sr., a pioneer physician in Abilene, and Ruth Adelia Taylor, a native of Lyons, Nebraska. One of four children, he graduated from Abilene High School in 1930, and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from Abilene Christian College, now Abilene Christian University, in 1934. While in college, Pope was active in school affairs, serving as President of the Junior Class and as President of the Student Association. He also earned letters in debate and as a member of the tennis team. After entering the University of Texas School of Law, Pope served as a student editor of the Texas Law Review before receiving his Bachelor of Laws degree in June 1937.
After being licensed to practice law in Texas on June 7, 1937, Pope moved to Corpus Christi and joined his uncle, former state representative Walter E. Pope, in his firm. Beginning on July 4, he soon established himself as a capable attorney, whose practice consisted of both civil and criminal matters, and also dealt with creditors' rights, oil and gas, land matters, personal injury, and family law. Pope's uncle also thrust him into a number of appellate matters, where he briefed and argued cases before the Court of Civil Appeals in San Antonio and the Supreme Court of Texas. A year after moving to Corpus Christi, Pope, on June 11, 1938, returned to Austin to marry Miss Allene Nichols, an elementary school teacher, whom he met while a student at UT.
Following his marriage, Pope returned to his practice and later became the president of his uncle's business, Highway Transportation Company, a passenger bus line that serviced Corpus Christi, Houston and San Antonio. During this time, he became actively engaged in the new transportation regulatory laws before the Railroad Commission of Texas and the Interstate Commerce Commission. He also practiced labor law that was in its New Deal infancy.
When the United States entered World War II, Pope, as the father of two young boys, Andrew Jackson, III and Walter Allen, was exempt from military service, but enlisted anyway in 1944. Serving in the Naval Reserve, he was stationed in San Diego, Washington, D. C., and on the legal staff of the Naval Air Training Station in Corpus Christi. After his discharge in 1946, he formed a law partnership with O. E. Cannon and Sam Pittman, but was later appointed to fill the unexpired term of Allen Wood, judge of the 94th District Court. Wood resigned from the Court after winning reelection to a four-year term. Governor Coke Stevenson appointed Pope to Wood's unexpired term, which ended December 31, 1946. Governor Stevenson's successor, Beauford Jester, later appointed Pope to Judge Wood's four-year term, which began January 1, 1947. Critics of Pope's appointments thought that he, at age 33, was too young, as he was the youngest district judge in Texas at the time.
Though he never had any political aspirations, Pope's years as a trial lawyer had provided a sound preparation to administer an active court. He often said that he "never displeased anyone as a judge," though he went on to comment, "When public expectations are slight, the disappointments are few."
During his time as a district judge, Pope began writing for and speaking at legal institutes and before bar associations in South Texas. He was concerned about better administration of court trials, the proper methods to present and exclude evidence, and the jury system itself. In time, his articles were being published, and he was frequently asked to lecture at law gatherings. On some occasions he was transferred to other South Texas courts to assist when a judge, for one reason or another, was disqualified from presiding. Undoubtedly, these activities led to the next step in his career.
The South Texas newspapers, particularly the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, editorially lamented the fact that there had never been a state official elected or chosen from any place south of San Antonio. At that time, there had been a longstanding vacancy on the Court of Civil Appeals that sat in San Antonio. Since 1892, there had been fifteen judges who served on that court, and all but five of them came from San Antonio. While an appointment was eventually made to fill the vacancy, it was met with considerable disapproval.
It was in that context that the Nueces County Bar Association prepared a resolution signed by every member asking Pope to make the race for the court. In April 1950, he announced his intent and joined Arley B. Knight, Austin F. Anderson, and Joe Burket, who had already begun campaigning. There were forty-eight counties in the district that comprised half of the boundary between Mexico and Texas, counties that bordered half of the Texas coastline and almost one-fourth of the geographic area of Texas.
The Nueces County Bar Association and the Rio Grande Valley counties actively supported Pope's candidacy. It became a "Forty-seven counties against San Antonio" campaign that he won in the July primary. However, soon after his victory, Justice Lorenz Broeter, who was quite ill at that time, immediately resigned his seat, which allowed Governor Allan Shivers to appoint Pope to fill the unexpired term. Pope sat on the Court from September 12 to January 1, 1951, when he began serving his own six-year term.
In less than five years, fortuitous circumstances had resulted in Pope's appointment on three occasions by three different Governors. He had been elected once to the district bench, and was elected to take a position on the Court of Civil Appeals. He served on that court for three six-year terms and then won a race in 1964 to the Supreme Court of Texas. When Joe R. Greenhill announced his resignation as Chief Justice in October 1982, Governor William P. Clements appointed Pope to take his place. Pope served in that capacity until January 5, 1985.
When summing up his career, Chief Justice Pope often stated "I am a judge by circumstance. I became a district judge without seeking it, went on to serve for more than thirty-eight continuous years on the trial court, intermediate court, and the court of last resort, a longer period than any other person who ever served on the Supreme Court. I was appointed for short interim periods by three democratic governors and one republican. My name was on the ballot fourteen times, all but three of then without opposition. Too young to be a judge in the beginning; too old to comply with the retirement law, at the end. Just about the time I was getting the hang of being a judge, I had to retire."
BIBLIOGRAPHY: link: Texas State Cemetery (Texas State Cemetery archives).