Ballinger, William Pitt

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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 reestablished—the 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.