Judge Benjamin M. Baker biography

JUDGE BENJAMIN M. BAKER, district judge of the thirty-first judicial district and for many years a resident of the town of Canadian, is highly representative of the best interests of the bar and bench of Texas. A practical lawyer, one who made his way to the top in his profession by earnest endeavor and personal application, possessed of the thoroughly judicial mind, and capable in every direction in which he had turned his energies, Judge Baker has made a most enviable record in his section of the state, and the esteem and confidence which the people cherish for him have been again and again manifested by his selection for positions of great trust and responsibility.

Judge Baker is a true son of the south, and possessed of its best characteristics and tendencies. Born at Girard, Alabama, in 1851, he was a son of the Hon. Benjamin H. and Eliza (Greer) Baker. His father, a native of Georgia, but who from early boyhood had lived in Alabama, where he died in 1864, was a prominent lawyer at Crawford, and before the war was a member of the state senate for many years. He stumped East Alabama against Yancey—and he is remembered as the only man who ever did so. He was at the height of his career during the stirring ante-bellum days, and he took a leading part in separating Alabama from the federal union, being a member of the Alabama secession convention, and was also prominent in the proceedings at Montgomery when the representative congress from the seceded state formed the provisional government for the Confederacy. He went into the army as lieutenant-colonel of the Sixth Alabama Regiment, and was discharged in 1862 on account of ill health. Judge Baker’s mother, also a native of Georgia, died in Columbus, that state, in 1898.

Judge Baker well remembered many of the incidents, the fervor of political discussion and the martial preparation which took place during his boyhood days leading up to and during the course of the Civil war, and before he was ten years old he was with his father, when the latter attended the secession convention at Montgomery. On account of the unsettled conditions of those days, his education could not but be sadly neglected as far as regular attendance at day school was concerned. But he was almost reared in his father’s law office, and having a natural liking for the profession he was not long in qualifying and getting into practice. In 1869 he came to Texas and became a student in a law office at Carthage, Panola county, where he was admitted to the bar in 1871, being at that time a little under twenty-one years old. He remained at Carthage and engaged in practice until 1882, and then for the following four years was in charge of the educational department of the state at Austin, the state capital. He organized the present public school system, and was appointed the first state superintendent by the Governor and subsequently elected for a second term by the people. Since 1887 he has been identified with the Panhandle country. At the time of his arrival Wheeler was the only county within a great scope of country which had been organized, and at Mobeetie, the county seat, he was located for the first month or two. In June, 1887, he came to Hemphill county, and in the month following his arrival he helped organize the county at the same time establish the county seat of Canadian. This has been his home and center of interest ever since, and no citizen has been more closely identified with the county seat of Canadian. This has been his home and center of interests ever since, and no citizen has been more closely identified with the best welfare of county and town than Judge Baker. After practicing law in Canadian for the first two and a half years he was elected judge of the thirty-first district, in which position he has served continuously ever since, having been elected four times. The thirty-first judicial district embraces nine counties, Lipscomb, Ochiltree, Hansford, Hemphill, Roberts, Hutchinson, Wheeler, Gray and Carson. He was in his early days a representative in legislature representing Panola, Rusk and Shelby counties in the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth legislatures, and was chairman of the Committee on Penitentiaries in sixteenth and chairman of the Committee on Finance in the seventeenth.

Judge Baker was married at Carthage to Miss Emily Hull, who was born in North Carolina but was reared in Texas. They have three daughters, all married, namely: Mrs. Anna Daniels, Mrs. Maud Johnson, and Mrs. Nellie Willis. Mrs. Baker is a member of the Methodist church, and the Judge is affiliated with the blue lodge and chapter of the Masonic fraternity.

Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. I, pp. 289-290.