A Saga of Texas Land and Oil Law

A Saga of Texas Land and Oil Law

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In the 1920s, the law of oil and gas in Texas was a frontier: raw and unsettled.

As Assistant Attorney General in charge of the land desk, Edgar Smith found himself a fascinated observer and an active player in some the most important cases in the history of Texas land and oil law.

"I'm going to be a lawyer."

Do you ever think people used to have more gumption than they do now?

Let's look at Edgar Smith, the youngest child of a circuit preacher. By age eleven he had to work in a coal mine to support his widowed mother. When he was eighteen they lost their home to foreclosure. People told him to learn a trade if he wanted to get by. Edgar's ears were plugged to that. All he ever wanted to be was a lawyer.

He sweated all day and studied into the night. This was back when you could read for the law. After six years of reading, Edgar took the bar exam. He passed. Edgar Freeman Smith was a lawyer.

Before he was thirty he would serve as a mayor, president of a school board and finally as Assistant Attorney General. Another four years and he would be First Assistant Attorney General.

"Lawsuits are not pink teas. They are battles."

Big cases where finding their way to the land desk then. Cases that would change the entire legal landscape. It was Edgar's job to argue for the State of Texas. His opponents where men of immense learning with formidable minds. His weapon: exhausting preparation.

A Saga of Texas Land and Oil Law
is Edgar Smith's legal autobiography, written in 1940. Not many were printed back then, so it's hard to find. Inside he lays out the the facts of the cases he argued and why he won, while presenting the arguments of his opponents in a fair light.

"A Factual Story of Texas Law, Lawyers, Judges and Famous Lawsuits"

The cases he covers include:
  • The Capitol Syndicate case
  • The Red River Boundary case
  • The Relinquishment Act
  • The case of the 'So-called Oil Leases'
  • and more
    Edgar Smith went on to work for Baker, Botts & Parker & Garwood (now Baker Botts) and includes a concise history of the firm, as well as an excellent character sketch of Judge Garwood.

    He also details his involvement in:
    • The Pool Hall cases
    • Martial Law at Galveston (1920)
    • Martial Law in the East Texas Oil Field
    • 1922 School Textbook case
    • and more
      J. Frank Dobie thought enough of Edgar's book to include it in his Guide to Life and Literature of the Southwest, a sort of master reading list if you want a solid grounding in the culture and history of our region.

      Edgar Smith manages a rare feat in this book: he is clear minded, fair and entertaining all at once. You will find him to be decent, diligent, observant and dedicated to the interests of his clients.

      When he left Baker, Botts, Parker & Garwood to form his own practice in Austin, Judge Garwood wrote this dedication to him:
      In memory of well fought fields;  to have lost without dejection; to have won without elation; to have fought for love of truth that justice might prevail, without thought of consequence to self - what greater life can the world afford?

      This book deserves a place on your shelf and in your heart.

       Physical Details

      • A Saga of Texas Land and Oil Law by Edgar Freeman Smith
      • Standard Edition Hardcover
      • Satin Finish Jacket
      • 347 pages

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