Ballinger, William Pitt

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Ballinger, William Pitt

William Pitt Ballinger achieved prominence as a distinguished Texas lawyer, which earned him the name the "Nestor of the Texas bar."

Ballinger was born in 1825 in Barbourville, Kentucky. From 1840 to 1841 Ballinger attended St. Mary's College, then began to study law on his own. His father was clerk of the courts of Knox County and hired the young Ballinger to work as a deputy clerk and gain more legal background.

In 1843 Ballinger moved to Texas and resided with an uncle who was a practitioner. Ballinger acted as his uncle's apprentice before serving a tour of military duty in the Mexican War. After Texas was admitted to the Union in 1845, and Ballinger returned from the war in 1846, he was one of the first to be licensed to practice law in the new state.

Ballinger married into a prominent Texas family in 1850 and in 1854 formed a law firm in Galveston with his new brother-in-law, Thomas M. Jack. Their partnership, which ended in 1880, the year of Jack's death, was highly regarded throughout the South, particularly in cases dealing with land claims.

In 1854 Ballinger sought interstate business for his firm, and traveled to New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. The trip was successful, and the firm began to specialize and earn a reputation in corporate law.

As hostilities increased in the South during the pre-Civil War days, Ballinger proclaimed his support of the Union; he favored Slavery, but not secession. When Texas seceded, however, Ballinger supported his state.

Ballinger served the Confederacy as a lawyer as well as a receiver of enemy property. The Sequestration Act provided for the seizure and sale of such property, the proceeds of which were deposited into a special Confederate treasury.

"The National government may be reestablishedthe political Union may be perpetuated, but if so, it will be by force."
—William Ballinger

After the war, Ballinger reached the peak of his success as an eminent corporate lawyer and was considered for a seat on the United States Supreme Court. He died January 20, 1888, in Galveston, Texas.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
William Pitt Ballinger: Texas Lawyer, 1825-1888, by John Anthony Moretta.
John Moretta, a doctoral graduate of Rice University and professor of history at Houston Community College, has done an excellent job in tracing the life and times of William Pitt Ballinger. Utilizing both printed and manuscript materials (especially Ballinger's diaries and personal papers and letters), Moretta paints a full picture of both the public and private man.
According to William Pitt Ballinger, Galveston lawyer and Confederate receiver of alien enemy property, "The [Gov..sup.r] claimed them as state troops on the ground that there was a concurrent jurisdiction between the State & the [Confed..sup.cy] & that of the state first attached." Murrah equivocated on technicalities until the crisis passed; the Texas forces never reached the front.(8)
On individual Texans who experienced great anxiety in accepting secession but who became ardent Confederates, see John Moretta, "William Pitt Ballinger and the Travail of Texas Secession, "Houston Review 11 (Fall 1989): 3-23; Claude Elliot, Leathercoat: The Life History.
diss., Columbia University, 1960), 200-202; William Pitt Ballinger, diary entry for Mar.