GREENHILL, JOE ROBERT (1914 ~ 2011). The following is an obituary for Justice Joe Greenhill, longest service justice on the Texas Supreme Court. The obituary was published in the February 13 edition of the Dallas Morning News.
Greenhill, Judge Joe R. - The Hon Joe R. Greenhill, chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court from 1972 to 1982, was born in Houston July 14, 1914, the son of Joe Greenhill, Jr., and Violet Stanuell Greenhill. He was graduated from San Jacinto High School in Houston and afterwards received B.A., and B.B.A. degrees from the University of Texas, and an L.L.B Degree from the University of Texas Law School, where he graduated at the top of this class. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the editor of the Cactus (the University of Texas yearbook), and a student editor of the Texas Law Review. Judge Greenhill received a Doctor of Law degree (honorary) from Southern Methodist University. He was selected Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin (1974), the University of Texas Law School (1977), and the University of Texas College of Business Administration (1977).
He was married to Martha Shuford of Tyler on June 15, 1940. He and Martha celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in June 2010 with the entire immediate family. Judge Greenhill commenced his legal career as a briefing attorney for the Texas Supreme Court working with Chief Justice James Alexander and Associate Justices John Sharp and Richard Critz. During World War II, he served 4 years on active duty, first in naval intelligence, then as Executive Officer on a fleet minesweeper in the forward area in the Pacific. As First Assistant Attorney General of Texas from 1948 to 1950, he tried and handled appeals for many major cases, including several argued before the United States Supreme Court.
He was a partner in the firm of Graves, Dougherty & Greenhill, Austin, from 1950 until 1957, when he was appointed to the Texas Supreme Court by Governor Price Daniel. His tenure, capped by service as chief justice from October 1972 to October 1982, was the longest in the history of the state's highest tribunal. After retirement from the Supreme Court he became Of Counsel with Baker Botts in Austin. Judge Greenhill was Executive Director, then Executive Director Emeritus of the Texas Bar Foundation. He received the Gold Medal Award from the Freedom Foundation, was a member of the Warren W. Burger Society and the Order of St. John's, and was a 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Mason.
He was a member and former president of the Texas Supreme Count Historical Society and of the Philosophical Society of Texas. He is the honoree of the Chief Justice Greenhill Presidential Scholarship in Law by the University of Texas Law School and the Chief Justice Joe Greenhill Scholarship by the Texas Wesleyan School of Law, Fort Worth, which provide scholarships for law students each year. He was co-incorporator of the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism. Judge Greenhill was a member, vestryman, and Senior Warden of St. David's Episcopal Church in Austin. As legal advisor to the Right Reverend John Hines, Bishop of the Diocese of Texas, he was instrumental in resolving legal issues involved in the acquisition of the land on which the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest in Austin was built. Judge Greenhill's years as Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court were distinguished by transformation in Texas negligence law, a breakthrough he engineered to allow greater alternative dispute resolution, and his championing expansion of the state's courts of appeals' jurisdiction to ease years of backlogs at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
As First Assistant Attorney General he defended Texas in Sweatt v. Painter, a desegregation challenge to the University of Texas School of Law in 1950. He lost before the U.S. Supreme Court. Twenty-seven years later he helped dedicate a new building at Texas Southern University's Thurgood Marshall School of Law, named for the African-American counsel who had prevailed in the Sweatt case. Marshall became in 1967 the U. S. Supreme Court's first African American justice. Initially reluctant to have the Texas Southern law school named for him, Marshall yielded upon Judge Greenhill's urging. The two jurists had personal and professional relationships that intersected more than once. On May 17, 1954, when the U. S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down state laws requiring school segregation, in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the Greenhill family was visiting the Court.
Thurgood Marshall, once an opponent, now the elated victor in U.S. history's greatest civil-rights case, swept Judge Greenhill's son, Bill, onto his shoulders and ran him through the white marbled Great Hall of the Court.
Judge Greenhill is survived by his wife, Martha, his sons, Joe Jr. (Austin), Bill and his wife Ann (Fort Worth), granddaughter, Emily Pierce and her husband, Adam, (Brooklyn), grandsons Duke Greenhill, Frank Greenhill, Joe Greenhill V and his wife, Melissa, and great grandson Elliott Pierce and great granddaughter Violet Pierce. Honorary Pall Bearers are: Bob Shannon, Larry York, Scott Field, Susan Gusky, Mary Keller, Patrick Keel, Joe Knight, Bob Howell, Polly Powell, and Joe Faron. Instead of flowers, contributions may be sent to The Gladney Center for Adoption, Development Department 300 John Ryan Drive Fort Worth, TX 76132; St. David's Episcopal Church, 301 East 8th Street, Austin, TX 78701-3280; the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society, 205 West 14th Street, Austin, TX 78701-1614; or to a charity of choice. A memorial service will be held at 2:00 P.M. at St. David's Episcopal Church, 301 East 8th Street in Austin, on Tuesday, February 15. There will be a reception in the Parish Hall following the memorial service. Obituary and memorial guestbook available online at www.wcfish.com Arrangements by Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home 512-452-8811