SMEDLEY, GRAHAM BEST (1879 ~ 1954). Graham Best Smedley, Associate Justice, Supreme Court of Texas, was born November 10, 1879, in Millersburg, Bourbon County, Kentucky to John Graham and Elizabeth "Lizzie" (Raines) Smedley. He attended Georgetown College in Kentucky, where he was inspired by a Latin and Greek professor to study the classics.
Intent upon becoming a teacher, Smedley enrolled in Harvard University for an advanced degree, but soon lost interest in the classics. He returned home after two weeks. Knowing that there were few professions that he would enjoy, he focused on law and entered the University of Virginia in 1899. He graduated with the highest honors after only three years of classes.
In 1905, Smedley came to Texas and was admitted to the bar and began practicing law in Dallas, where he met and later married his wife, Betty Dunn, on December 25, 1907. They had no children.
Shortly after their marriage, the Smedleys moved to Midland, where Graham was an Oil and Gas Attorney and served a term as Midland County Attorney. In 1913, Smedley was appointed Assistant Attorney General and moved to Austin.
As Assistant Attorney General, Smedley was put in charge of all of Texas' litigation pertaining to school lands, oil and gas rights, and irrigation. Often considered the foremost authority on land law, Smedley, while representing the State of Texas against the Kenedy Pasture Company, recovered almost 55,000 acres of land for the public school fund. In another case, he recovered another 60,000 acres of land that was overpaid for the construction of the State Capitol. In all Smedley, served in the Attorney General's office for five years.
After Attorney General Ben Looney's term ended in 1918, Smedley resumed his law practice, but stayed in Austin until 1925, when he moved to Wichita Falls and later Fort Worth. He returned to Austin in 1933, when he was appointed to the Commission of Appeals for the Supreme Court of Texas. In 1944, a constitutional amendment elevated the number of justices of the Supreme Court from three to nine and abolished the Commission, but Smedley and the other members were appointed associate justices of the Court.
In all, Smedley served ten years on the Court and developed a tough reputation. Often called "The Great Dissenter," Smedley could be sharp tongued and write with an acid pen when he ruled on matters he felt were unjust. He also held a strong passion for how the law should be interpreted. In a 1950 Austin American-Statesman article he was quoted as saying, "Personal convictions as to what the law should be must resolutely be laid aside and a judge's energies and abilities devoted to ascertaining what is the law applicable to the case before him. He is not delegated to pronounce a new law but to maintain and expound the old one." A true legal scholar, Smedley was the author of a digest of Texas Oil and Gas Law and served on the editorial board of the Texas Law Review.
Smedley was a Methodist, a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason, a Shriner, a member of the Phi Delta Phi fraternity and the Order of the Coif and in 1950, he was bestowed an honorary degree of doctor of laws from Georgetown College. He died Thursday, November 10, 1954, after a brief illness, and was buried in the Texas State Cemetery two days later.
Information taken from "Kentucky College To Make Judge Smedley LL.D.," Austin American-Statesman, June 2, 1950, "Smedley Loves Law as Writ," Austin American-Statesman, November 12, 1950, "Justice Smedley Funeral Slated Friday Morning," newspaper and date are unknown, "Last Respects Paid Smedley," newspaper and date are unknown.