In Memoriam: Thomas M. Reavley

In Memoriam: Thomas M. Reavley

Thomas Morrow Reavley of the U.S. Court for the Fifth Circuit passed away on Dec. 1 in Houston, Texas. He was 99.

“During his 99 years, Judge Reavley earned the love, respect, and affection of those who had the privilege of knowing him,” said Chief Judge Lee H. Rosenthal of the Southern District of Texas. “He served us all, long and well. We will miss him.”

He was the oldest active judge at the time of his death, serving on the Fifth Circuit for 41 years. Before joining the Fifth Circuit in 1979, he served on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (1978) and on the Supreme Court of Texas (1968-1977).

His devotion to public service began early in his life. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in 1942, Judge Reavley enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1948 and served as a prosecutor, local judge, and state government official before serving on the Texas Supreme Court and Fifth Circuit. In 1987, he was elected as a member of The American Law Institute.

“Sailor, scholar, lawyer, advisor to governors and presidents, judge, writer – Tom Reavley was all these things, and always with unfailing wisdom, humility, civility, decency, kindness to all and good humor,” said Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court. “He was a towering figure in Texas and a true champion of justice for the state and the country."

Earlier this year, The Houston Chronicle highlighted the decades-long friendship and eventual romance between Judges Reavley and Carolyn Dineen King, also of the Fifth Circuit.

The piece, “A courtship four decades in the making: they met when Jimmy Carter tapped them for bench, wed 25 years later”—published the day before Valentine’s Day—shares the touching story of a courtship that developed over time as they journeyed side by side through personal and professional challenges.

From work colleagues, to friends, to occupying side-by-side offices at Houston’s federal courthouse, their story is a wonderful testament to lifelong friendship, shared intellect, and love.

Judge Reavley is survived by Judge King and four children, Thomas Wilson Reavley, Marian Neevel, Paul Stuart Reavley and Margaret Currin; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Below: Judges Reavley and King