Benjamin Dudley Tarlton, Jr. (1889-1956), the son of former Chief Justice of the Texas Court of Civil Appeals B.D. Tarlton, Sr., was born at Hillsboro, Texas. After finishing high school, he took a Bachelor of Arts from St. Edwards University in Austin and entered the University of Texas Law School from which he graduated in 1911. Tarlton was soon appointed as District Attorney for the 36th Judicial District in Hill County, Texas. He remained in this position until 1917 when he resigned to join the Army. Upon his release from service in 1919, Tarlton moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, where he returned to the practice of law. He quickly emerged as one of Corpus Christi’s most prominent attorneys and citizens.
A colorful attorney, Tarlton participated in almost every important law case in South Texas for the next thirty-five years. Early in his career, Tarlton gained a reputation as an authority on Texas election laws. Tarlton had a reputation for winning at least ninety percent of his cases. He may be best known for winning all but one of over a hundred murder trials he handled.
While Tarlton never ran for public office, he was a staunch Democrat and actively participated in local, state, and national politics. He managed several of U.S. Congressman Richard M. Kleberg’s successful campaigns, and had a working relationship with U.S. Representative Lyndon B. Johnson. Of interest was Tarlton’s opposition to a U.S. president holding a third term. This belief led him to support Wendell Wilke against Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940.
Tarlton died in Corpus Christi in 1956 after a short illness. At the time of his death, he was still actively practicing law with his son Vincent B. Tarlton. His daughter, Frances T. “Sissy” Farenthold later became one of the most prominent political figures and international peace activists in Texas history.
The B. Dudley Tarlton Papers consist of forty-seven document cases of materials, including print items pertaining to numerous civil court cases and a few criminal court cases he was involved in during the 1930s-1950s. There is also a limited amount of correspondence concerning political campaigns of the 1930s as well as personal correspondence. These papers represent only a portion of Tarlton’s career and life. Many items unfortunately were lost to water damage. The Tarlton Papers were donated to Special Collections & Archives by his daughter, Frances T. Farenthold.
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