Editor's Note: This is the 19th story in a series of weekly articles on individuals, who made positive contributions to Stephenville, the Cross Timbers area and/or the State of Texas. Thanks to Cindy Stafford, a former legal secretary, for supplying the information for today's story.
By STUART CHILTON Special Contributor
Today's featured individual served the Cross Timbers area as an attorney for more than a half century.
He's probably the only person from Stephenville to be tendered the job as Texas' Secretary of State. This position offer came in the 1950s, during Gov. Alan Shivers' administration. This Stephenville attorney turned down the invitation, advising Governor Shivers, “… I just want to be a country lawyer.”
He was born in Stephenville on June 25, 1911, graduating from Stephenville High School in 1928. Later that year, he enrolled at John Tarleton Agricultural College (now Tarleton State University), graduating in 1930. His next step was to enroll at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where he graduated from law school in 1935. He returned to Stephenville, and practiced law here for the next 55 years.
During this time, he served in many important positions. Some of his noteworthy achievements included Stephenville City Attorney, 1937-1990; President Stephenville Lions Club, 1946; President of the Tarleton Alumni Association, 1948; President of the Stephenville Chamber of Commerce, 1950; member of the State Democratic Executive Committee, 1950-52; member of the Board of Directors, State Bar of Texas, 1955-58; author of the legislative bill, advancing Tarleton State College from a two-year college to a four-year college; member of Texas Commission on Higher Education, 1963-65; Distinguished Tarleton Alumnus, 1976; member of the Tarleton Athletic Hall of Fame Selection Committee, 1980-84; and a member of the Board of the Farmers First National Bank (now Bank America), retiring as the Board President in 1982.
He was a person, who often exhibited wit in many of his speeches. Once, when he was speaking to the Erath County Legal Secretaries Association, he said, “I admire legal secretaries. After all, I married two of mine.”
He never called attention to himself. Fellow attorneys often pointed out that he was dedicated to the law, to his family and to his community. One of his gentlemanly traits was to tip his hat to a lady.
His first wife was Christine Newsome, whom he married in 1938. They had three children - two daughters - Susan and Mary Jo; and a son, Randy. Christine died in September, 1973.
In 1977, he married the former Ruth Cameron. She died in October, 2000.
On Aug. 24, 1990, a “packed house” crowded into the Tarleton Dining Hall to honor this person on an “Appreciation Day.” The event was sponsored by the local Lions Club.
On the morning of Sept. 25, 1990, he walked from his law office to a nearby abstract office to assist a client in closing on a real estate transaction. He sat down in a chair. A moment later he fell over, dying from an apparent heart attack at the age of 79.
A Name to Remember - Mr. Joseph (Joe) A. Chandler
Dr. Chilton, a retired educator/journalist, lives in Stephenville. He occasionally writes for this newspaper.