The oldest active federal judge recently passed away at the age of 99. Thomas M. Reavley served for 41 years on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Justice Reavley grew up in Nacogdoches, Texas, which fittingly bills itself as the oldest town in Texas. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He served in the United States Navy, where he was a Lieutenant. In that capacity, Justice Reavley was responsible for transporting President Franklin Roosevelt to the Yalta Conference of world leaders during World War II.
After the war, Justice Reavley attended Harvard Law School, from which he graduated in 1948. He was previously a prosecutor, local judge, and state government official before returning to the bench, this time for the Texas Supreme Court. Justice Reavley served on the Texas Supreme Court for nine years, then was appointed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals by President Jimmy Carter. He presided over a full caseload from his appointment in 1979 until 2019, despite taking senior status in 1990.
He married his second wife, Carolyn Dineen King, in 2004 after his first wife passed away in 2003. He had previously been married to Florence Wilson Reavley for 60 years. Justice Reavley said that his late wife encouraged him before her death to get remarried after her passing. His second wife, Justice King, also sits on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
While he was not on the bench, Justice Reavley served as a lay Methodist minister and Sunday School teacher. His colleagues called him the Pope of the Fifth Circuit because of his religious leanings.
In the announcement of Justice Reavley’s death, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht called him “a towering figure in Texas and a true champion of justice.” Justice Reavley is survived by Justice King and four children.