Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court
The Honorable Judge Joe R. Greenhill was born in Houston, Texas on July 14, 1914, the son of Joe Greenhill, Jr., and Violet Stanuell Greenhill. He served as chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court from 1972 to 1982.
Judge Greenhill graduated from San Jacinto High School in Houston; he later 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 also received an honorary Doctor of Law degree from Southern Methodist University.
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. 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.
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. In 1950 he defended Texas in Sweatt v. Painter, a desegregation challenge to the University of Texas School of Law. In 1957, 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.
Thurgood Marshall, the U. S. Supreme Court’s first African American justice, had a personal and professional relationship with Judge Greenhill. 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, 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 was a member, vestryman, and Senior Warden of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Austin. Greenhill and his wife Martha Shuford celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in June of 2010 with their entire immediate family. They had two sons, Joe Jr. and Bill.