MATTOX, JAMES ALBON (1943 ~ 2008). The following is a family-placed obituary for former Congressman and Texas Attorney General James Albon "Jim" Mattox. The obituary was published in the Austin American-Statesman on November 23, 2008.
"From consumer rights to child support enforcement, from crime victims compensation to environmental protection, from opening up public agencies to holding private corporations accountable, Jim Mattox said government should be a force for good. He was among the last of the straightforward Texas populists. And in a political career that spanned most of a generation, he took on powerful special interests as a crusading assistant district attorney, a reform-minded state representative, a budget hawk Congressman, and an attorney general known far and wide as the 'People's Lawyer.' James Albon Mattox was born on August 29, 1943, the first of three children of Norman, a union sheet metal worker, and Mary Kathryn Harrison, a waitress.
He attended Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas, graduating in 1961, and worked his way through the Baylor School of Business, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1965 and won the Wall Street Journal Award for academic excellence. He earned his law degree from SMU and received the state's third-highest grade on his bar exam in 1968. As an assistant district attorney under the legendary Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade, Jim tried misdemeanor and felony cases, earning convictions in a record 98 percent of his cases. After a brief two years in private practice, Jim ran for the Texas House in 1972, serving two terms as East Dallas' state representative. He pushed for and passed the Big Five package of legislation that still serves today as the basis for open government - open meetings, open records, full financial disclosure, campaign finance reform, and lobby registration. Jim was elected to the 5th Congressional District seat in 1976, 10 years after he had served as an intern in that office for then-Congressman Earle Cabell.
He was the only freshman elected to the influential House Budget Committee that year and later chaired the Task Force on National Security and Veterans Affairs, where he sought better medical care of veterans afflicted with Agent Orange, as he continued to do when he became a statewide elected official. He also served on the powerful Banking Committee. In 1982, Jim was elected Texas Attorney General, the state's 47th, and won re-election in 1986. He quickly became known as the 'People's Lawyer,' a populist in the model of two other great attorneys general in Texas history: Jim Hogg and Jim Allred. He built the office into a modern law firm, hired a diverse group of lawyers who handled more than 2 million cases during his time in the post, won judgments totaling more than $2.5 billion for the state, and guaranteed that the office reflected the rich diversity of Texas by hiring more women and minority lawyers than the top 10 Texas law firms of that era combined. Jim ran for governor in 1990, the U.S. Senate in 1994, and again for attorney general in 1998.
After leaving the attorney general's office in 1991, Jim devoted much of his time to his family, law practice, real estate development and politics. After going to the Democratic National Convention as a delegate from Hays County in the summer, his last great contribution to the Democratic Party of Texas was just weeks ago when he spoke at a Party hearing on changing Texas' convoluted primary-caucus system. To the cheers of the standing crowd, he said, 'This system we've got is an expensive one. It's an unintelligible system. It is an acrimonious system across the board.' Jim cared deeply about those whose lives were more difficult than his.
He lived both his public and private lives as defined in Matthew 25:40 of the New Testament: 'And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.' In 1990, Jim married Marta Jan Karpan, a former assignments editor with KHOU-TV in Houston who runs a successful bottled water company, Texas Crystal Water, and is involved in a variety of charitable and civic projects.
He is survived by his wife and their two children, James Sterling 'Jimmer,' 18, and Janet Mary Kathryn 'Sissi,' 15, as well as Jim's sister, Janice, and his brother, Jerry, both of Dallas. Jim will lie in state in the House Chambers of the State Capitol from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, with the family being present from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Services will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the First Baptist Church, 901 Trinity. Burial will follow in the State Cemetery, 909 Navasota Street. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Dallas County Democratic Party, 4209 Parry Ave., Dallas, TX 75223; the Hays County Democratic Party, 829 N. LBJ Drive, Suite 108, San Marcos, TX 78666; or Earth Share of Texas, 707 West Ave., Suite 203, Austin, TX 78701"
Further information is available through the Texas State Cemetery research department.