NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Judge Jack Pierce, who retired as the longest sitting judge in Texas and presided over the 145th district for 37 years, died Thursday at the age of 84.
Pierce took over the district following an appointment by Gov. John Connally in 1963, when he was one of the youngest state judges at that time. He retired in 2000.
According to his obituary, Pierce was born in 1928 to Hershel and Mary Louise Pierce in downtown Nacogdoches. He died in Canton, Ga.
Shortly after his retirement, Pierce was the victim of arsenic poisoning and spent months recovering from the sickness. The Texas Rangers investigated the case but no arrests were ever made.
"He never really the same after that," Davis said.
Pierce married Willene Pierce in 1958 and they had two daughters, Mary Elizabeth McWilliams and Rosemary Pierce.
After Willene Pierce's death, Pierce married Sue Newman in 2005.
According to remarks from former state Rep. Max Sandlin in 2000, Pierce's contributions to the court system include being the first judge to name a woman to the Nacogdoches County Grand Jury and the "Ninety Day Guarnatee" for court trials in the county. He also established the law library at the county courthouse.
"He loved being judge," said former County Attorney Bryan Holt Davis. "He enjoyed being in control."
Pierce's attire reflected his demeanor. Attorney friend Craig Stripling laughs about it today.
"He thought of it like as being an oasis and it was and he maintained a lot of dignity," Stripling said.
The judge once traveled Angelina, Cherokee and Nacogdoches counties holding court. Perhaps he liked having a place to call his own.
"He didn't want any other district judges," Davis said.
For that pierce was criticized. There were also grumblings of attorney favoritism, and those lengthy courtroom lectures to offenders, particularly juveniles.
The admonishment may have been punishment enough.
"He was genuinely interested in young people," Davis said.
Visitation for Pierce is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday at the Nacogdoches County Courthouse.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church in Nacogdoches.