Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Texas Tidbits; Judge Roy Bean

The Law West of the Pecos
 Other than Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, Sam Houston and a handful of other famous Texans, perhaps none is quite as famous (infamous?) than the man who was self-anointed as "The Law West of the Pecos" - Judge Roy Bean. When it comes to separating fact from fiction regarding Phantly Roy Bean, Jr. (1825-1903), the line is, put mildly, blurred. It is said that Judge Bean held court in his saloon and passed sentence on defendants by bellowing, "Hang 'em first, then try 'em". Smithsonian Magazine by way of further informs us "By Gobs! There was nothing judicious about Judge Roy Bean "Doffing his saloon apron,  the grizzled barkeep dons a dirty alpaca coat,  sits himself down behind the bar, draws a pistol and bangs for silence using the butt as a gavel.   "Order, by Gobs!   This honorable court is now in session, and if any galoot wants a snort before we start, let him step up to the bar and name his pizen." The good judge had never seen the inside of a law school.  His only law book was the 1879 Revised Statutes of Texas.  But the self-styled "Law West of the Pecos" knew how to hold court. There, in his Jersey Lilly saloon in the minuscule West Texas town of Langtry, Roy Bean doled out drinks and his own brand of justice for more than 20 years." You. Can't. Make. This. Stuff. Up. For this tale of Law West of the Pecos-style "justice", we go to : "One of Bean's most outrageous rulings occurred when an Irishman was accused of killing a Chinese worker. Friends of the accused threatened to destroy the Jersey Lilly if he was found guilty. Court in session, Bean browsed through his law book, turning page after page, searching for another legal precedent. Finally, rapping his pistol on the bar, he proclaimed, "Gentlemen, I find the law very explicit on murdering your fellow man, but there's nothing here about killing a Chinaman. Case dismissed." They say justice is blind. Could it be that Judge Roy Bean was blind to justice? You decide. You don't need my help. Here's a good, one page bio of Judge Bean. Like George S Patton said about some Russian general, "He may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son f a bitch". Thus it is with the Law West of the Pecos.


  1. Ah, so many tales about the man persists, however, most of them just add to the reputation of this colorful man, even though many of them are untruths. But, who cares, he a great, (or not great) individual to read about.

    One true story though, is that he once promoted a prize fight between Max Baer and another noted boxer, that I don't remember. It was held on a little spit of an island in the middle of the Rio Grande river. This location was picked because he didn't want to get in trouble with the officials. He hung some bedsheets around the "arena", so people would watch from the riverside cliffs. There are photos of this event at the visitors center at the original Jersey Lily saloon at Langtree.

    By the way it is an interesting place tp visit. The bar looks just like it did during his time. It is polished from so many elbows and arms resting on it.

    Sorry for rambling,

  2. Bob...thanks for sharing that! What a cool story. Any time you comment , you add a lot to the "conversation". Thanks again, amigo. :)

  3. P.S. Sorry about the error in spelling Langtry wrong, and the reason he hung the sheets for the boxing event was so the people on the cliffs of the river COULDn'T watch. I must have had some senior moments. :-)

    I might add that Roy Bean never actually hanged anyone. He is sometimes confused with the "Hanging Judge" Parker. He did "stage" a few hangings to scare some criminals, though. And he never met Lillie Langtry. He died before she ever made a visit. His dream was to have her sing in the opera house that he had built for her. It still stands at Langtry.

    Okay, enough for today. :-)


  4. so what are the interesting Tidbits?

  5. i need 3 Interesting Tidbits!


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