JUDGE ALBERT STEVENSON, a member of the bar of Palo Pinto county, Texas, living at Mineral Wells, is a leading representative of his profession and is also a citizen of wide influence, doing much to mould public thought and opinion in his part of the state. He has figured prominently in political circles and has been the promoter of important legislative measures that have proved of direct benefit to his constituency and the commonwealth at large.
Judge Stevenson was born near Bryson, Giles county, Tennessee, November 7, 1854, and is a son of the Rev. James C. and Margaret C. (Brown) Stevenson, both of whom are now deceased. His father was a native of Iredell county, North Carolina, and with his parents removed to Giles county, Tennessee, w hen four years of age. He became a Methodist minister and although his connection with the church caused various removals he lived the greater part of his life in Giles and adjoining counties, always maintaining a home in the former county. His was of Irish and English extraction, his ancestors having first settled in Virginia, whence they afterward went to North Carolina. His father, the Rev. Elam Stevenson, was also a minister of the gospel, while his father, Captain Stevenson, commanded a company in the Revolutionary war. To the same family belonged the Hon. Adlai Stevenson, of Bloomington, Illinois, at one time vice-president of the United States. The mother of Judge Stevenson was a daughter of Duncan Brown, a noted Presbyterian layman of middle Tennessee, who was the father of Neil S. and John C. Brown, both of whom were governors of Tennessee. The Browns were of Scotch lineage.
Judge Stevenson was reared upon the home plantation in Giles county, where he lived until almost twenty-one years of age. His early educated acquired in the common schools was supplemented by study in Webb Brothers College at Culleoka, Maury county, Tennessee, and he afterward entered upon the study of law in a law office at Pulaski, Tennessee, his preliminary reading being followed to the bar in 1878.
The year 1879 witnessed the arrival of Judge Stevenson in Texas. He located for practice in Weatherford, the county seat of Parker county, where he entered upon his profession in April, 1879. H[e] was not long in securing a large clientage and in the course of time he demonstrated his ability to successfully handle important litigated interests and cope with the intricate problems of jurisprudence. His ability is valuable in citizenship and his strong manly character led to his election for public honors. He was elected county attorney of Parker county in 1884, was re-elected in 1886, and in 1888 was chosen to represent his district in the twenty-first session of the Texas legislature. He was appointed a member of the committees, and was, during a great part of the session, acting chairman of judiciary committee No. 2, and was chairman of the committee of Federal Relations. His experience as a prosecuting attorney had taught him that, in full justice to both the state and the defendant, in criminal cases, the defendant should be permitted to testify in his own behalf. Judge Stevenson considered it a relic of barbarism that a man’s lips should be closed when he was on trial for his life and liberty. He accordingly drafted a bill allowing the accused to testify, gave the bill to another member, Mr. Bishop, of Athens, Texas, who introduced it and through Judge Stevenson’s efforts this bill was passed and became a law, permitting, for the first time in Texas, the defendant in criminal cases to testify in his own behalf. He also introduced perhaps the first anti-trust bill in Texas and was a member of the subcommittee that framed the first anti-trust bill passed in Texas.
Judge Stevenson’s most important work in the twenty-first legislature, however, and the one for which he should be given most credit, was in connection with the famous railroad commission bill which attracted wide-spread attention not only in Texas, but all over the country. The assembly during that session had before it what was known as the T. J. Brown Railroad Commission Bill, which provided for the appointment of three commissioners to regulate the railroad affairs of the state. Judge Stevenson did not believe that the framers of the constitution of 1876 contemplated the creation of any other tribunals than those provided for by that instrument and contended that the constitution itself demanded ore required that the legislature should pass laws from time to time regulating railroads, freight, and passenger charges, etc. As a lawyer he contended that if the bill in question was passed creating a railroad commission without any authority form the constitution to do so, the acts of said commission, when passed up to the supreme court for final decision, would not stand. Hence he voted against the commission bill then pending and for this was unjustly criticized. The bill passed the house, but failed in the senate. Then by arrangement and agreement between Judge Stevenson and Judge Abercrombie, now deceased, of Huntsville, who was a member of the senate, they introduced simultaneously in both house and senate in the same language, resolutions amending the constitution so that it would expressly authorize a railroad commission. This resolution was passed by both house and senate and at the general election in 1890 the proposed amendment was approved by the people. It was on the issue of this amendment that Hon. James Hogg made his famous campaign for governor in 1890 and was elected. The real credit for this legislation, however, is given to Judge Stevenson and Judge Abercrombie, who by their efforts in its support and by giving the state a railroad commission that is constitutional, no doubt saved the state the humiliation of having the acts of this railroad commission reversed by the supreme court.
Judge Stevenson has always favored the regulation of corporations, preserving intact the rights of the people. He believes in doing things according to law, always regarding constitutional limitations, is opposed to anything that partakes of the nature of demagogue ruling and believes that Texas has been injured by such. In every contest between the corporation and the people his every effort has been in behalf of the people and yet he believes that they should never infringe on the rights of the corporation.
Since 1890 Judge Stevenson has been busily engaged in handling private business and law practice and has been loath to become a candidate for public office. In the year 1904, however, he was the presidential elector for the Democratic party for the sixteenth congressional district of Texas. In his speeches from Palo Pinto to El Paso county he charged that the money of the corporations was attempting to defeat Judge Parker, and the Armstrong Committee of New York have proven this to be true. He is a strong Democrat and has made a close and thorough study of the issues of the day. He is noted throughout Texas a political orator of distinction, presenting his case with logical clearness and with facility of expression so that he seldom fails to make a deep impress upon the majority of his auditors. Beside his law practice his attention has been largely given to real-estate operations and as the result of his judicious investment he owns some valuable property.
Judge Stevenson was married in Weatherford to Miss Rose Belle Duke, a daughter of R. W. Duke, who was county and district clerk of Parker county for fourteen years and is a member of the Duke family, residents of Charlottesville, Virginia, and vicinity, and numbered among the prominent people of that state. Mr. Duke being also a cousin of General Basil Duke, of Kentucky. Mrs. Stevenson was educated in Staunton, Virginia, and is a lady of superior culture and refinement, presiding with gracious hospitality over their home. In 1895 they removed from Weatherford to Mineral Wells, where they have since lived. They have two children: Carrie and Duncan Brown Stevenson.
Judge Stevenson is a member of the Knights of Pythias fraternity and is deeply interested in local progress and improvement as well as in the great questions that affect the weal or woe of state and nation. He is a statesman, who can grasp affairs, owing to his comprehensive reading and investigation, combined with a naturally strong intellect. The favorable judgment which the world passed upon him at the outset of his professional career has in nowise been modified, but on the contrary has been strengthened as the years have passed and he is to-day accorded a position among the most prominent lawyers of western Texas. He says he is not ambitious for any more political honors; that he regards a chronic candidate for office as a fit subject for contempt and pity. That while he holds that no citizen ought to decline the serve his country when he can do so efficiently, yet no man can afford to advocate false doctrines in religion or politics to get office, as in the manner of some. At present, Judge Stevenson, with some associates, is engaged in trying to build an “interurban” electric line between his city and the city of Fort Worth, and he says that if he can succeed in this he thinks that several “blades of grass” will grow to very one now, and his he calls doing something for his country.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 557-559.