Tuesday, May 15, 2007

R.I.P. Judge William Steger

I didn't know until I heard Rep. Bryan Hughes' resolution read yesterday on the floor of the Texas House that Eastern US District Judge William Steger passed away last year at the age of 85. Here's the House memorial resolution passed in his honor. I met Judge Steger a few times growing up, but my attorney father tried many cases in Steger's courtroom in Tyler and always spoke of him with the greatest respect.

I knew Steger was a Republican but I certainly didn't know (until reading the resolution) that he was the Republican nominee for Texas Governor in 1960! Indeed, in retrospect his candidacy was very important for Texas Republicans, since it earned Texas the right to have its first ever GOP presidential primary in 1964, the resolution informs us. That's the year that Karl Rove, Pete O'Donnell, and other future prominent Texas political figures all cut their teeth in Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign, but they wouldn't have gotten the chance to have a Republican presidential primary here that year it weren't for William Steger. That makes him a more important character than I understood in the history of the conservative movement in Texas. (See his Wikipedia entry.)

Despite that partisan background, Steger came from a generation of jurists for whom party labels weren't nearly as important as the law, precedent, and respect for the integrity of the system that's so often lacking in some Texas courts. Judge Steger was respected by everyone I've known who ever spoke to me about him, and I was sorry to hear of his passing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post on Judge Steger. He was a bigger-than-life Texan - WWII fighter pilot, youngest US Attorney in the Country, candidate for Governor and Congress, leader in his church. You're right about him - a real Republican pioneer and as a Judge he got out of politics and was always fair to both sides. He was a real mentor and example to me and many many others. I really appreciate your kind words.