Jack Pope, son of Dr. A.J. and Ruth Taylor Pope, was born in Abilene, Texas April 18, 1913. He died in Austin, Texas on February 25, 2017. He graduated from public schools in Abilene, earned a BA degree from Abilene Christian College in 1934 and a law degree from the University of Texas in 1937 after having been the editor of the Texas Law Review. While in Austin he met a recent graduate, Allene Nichols. They married June 11, 1938 and began a loving partnership that lasted 66 years.
Jack and Allene moved to Corpus Christi where he started practicing law with his uncle, W.E. (Uncle Elmer) Pope. He volunteered to fight in World War II like so many patriots. He was 32 with a two year old and another baby on the way when he became a Navy sailor. The timing was a double awful if you were hedging on your safety. The Axis before D Day had the momentum in Europe and the fighting in the Pacific was escalating. Jack and Allene expected he would ship out with his fellow sailors after boot camp to the Pacific but Jack was ordered to Washington D.C. to decode enemy telecommunications as a cryptologist. When the war ended he was back in Corpus Christi again. Governor Coke Stevenson appointed him Judge of the 94th District Court. Then in 1960, Jack was elected to the Fourth Court of Civil Appeals in San Antonio and again elected in 1964 to the Texas Supreme Court. Governor Bill Clements appointed Judge Jack Pope in 1982 as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. His 38 year service is believed to be the longest service of any Judge who has served on Texas' highest court. There he worked for law reform, initiated new procedures for handling grievances against attorneys, changed venue rules, in many instances, two trials for one case and promulgated the Texas Rule of Judicial Education. He got computer technology in all state appellate courts, wrote the first "Jury Handbook" which is given to those called to jury duty, sponsored the creation of the State Law Library, helped draft the first Judicial Code of Conduct and became a charter member of the Texas Center of Legal Ethics. As Chief Justice, he and others established a program (IOLTA) which provides legal service to over 100,000 poor families a year in civil matters like wrongful foreclosures, domestic violence and veterans who have not received their earned benefits. The money comes from Texas lawyers and not from taxes. Governor Rick Perry in 2012 recognized him and the IOLTA program with the signing of the "Chief Justice Jack Pope Act." A testimony to dedication and hard work he wrote 1032 opinions. No judge in Texas history ever wrote this much law.
Legal scholars recognize Jack as the expert of his times on matters of water laws of Texas and southwestern states where Spanish, Mexican, and English understanding of water rights sometimes differ yet still must be considered. James Michener in his book "Texas" felt that water and those who controlled it had a greater influence on Texas history than oil or longhorns. While he wrote "Texas" he and his secretary twice went to the Judge's home to discuss these water matters and the law. A sidebar to their meetings in Jack's library, Michener allowed, "authors love names like Jack Pope....sharp....crisp....easy to remember." True to his words, James Michener in his next book "Space" introduced his fictional test pilot John Pope.
Jack was made Outstanding Alumnus at Abilene Christian University as well as The University of Texas School of Law.
Joys and concerns of the family were always uppermost and a good example was when his father-in-law had his first stroke. Jack brought Allene's parents to San Antonio to care for them and to make it work he built on to his house. Grandpa Nichols could not speak but on so many occasions he thanked Jack with a smile and tears.
He was as comfortable outdoors as he was lecturing in the summers at NYU School of Law. His first visit to Austin was when he was eleven and he was with his Scout troop 2 camping on the banks of Barton Springs. When he was older and still the camper at heart Jack would amaze everyone with more rope tricks than Will Rogers. He played a mean harmonica at night and then in the morning he could awake you with a bugle call. The Longhorns filled him with happy memories like the TCU game in the 60's when his shoes froze to the floor at Memorial Stadium. As hard as he worked as a judge, he never forgot family. The family visited all the national parks but three by 1960. Before there was the Hike and Bike Trail around Zilker Park, Jack and Allene jogged there often. There is a tree in Zilker Park he would point to and say, "I got my first kiss from Allene under that tree." That would have been in 1938. He was still walking by that tree in 2013 at age 100.
After Jack retired he developed the Pope Fellows at ACU, which give scholarships to students interested in a career in public service. In 2010 the State Bar of Texas awarded him the Lifetime Achievement Award. On his 100th birthday all the living Presidents and their wives sent letters thanking the Judge for his life of service and one of giving.
His ancestors received land grants in Atascosito (Liberty) from Mexico before there was a Texas and some are named on the Honor Roll at the Battle of San Jacinto. He edited a family history "John Berry and His Family."
Jack was an incorporator of the Supreme Court Historical Society. The Freedom Foundation of Valley Forge gave him their George Washington Award. The Supreme Court Society published "Common Law Judge" in 2014. The book is a collection of essays, opinions and a biography of this uncommon man.
Judge Pope is survived by two sons, A.J. Pope III and his wife, Carla, of The Woodlands, Texas; Allen Pope and his wife Karen of Castle Pines, Colorado. He had three grandchildren, Drew Pope, Ryan Pope and wife Erin and Billie Pope Locke and husband Jeff Locke and four great-grandchildren, Dylan and Peyton Locke, Carinn and Caitlin Pope; and many nieces and nephews.
The family would like to thank his friends, neighbors and members of his church, University Church of Christ. They also would like to remember his long-time secretary, the late Peggy Littlefield. A special thanks to his caregivers and to their supervisor Lauren Barrett. Jack affectionately referred to his team of caregivers as the "Little United Nations" and even wrote a book about them and their ideas on caring for the elderly.
Justice Pope will lie in state on Thursday, March 2, 2017 from 9:00am to 5:00pm at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home North location. Funeral services will be held on Friday, March 3, 2017 at 1:00pm at University Avenue Church of Christ, 1903 University Avenue, Austin, TX 78705. Interment will follow at the Texas State Cemetery. Parking for the church services will be in the ATT Center parking lot.
For those wishing to make memorial gifts you may contribute to the Pope Fellows, Box 29132, ACU Station, Abilene, Texas 79699, or to your favorite charity.