Rare Judge Baylor documents presented to university

Story by Phoebe Suy | Staff Writer, Video by Jessica Babb | Broadcast Managing Editor

Rare 19th century documents belonging to Baylor’s namesake and co-founder Judge Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor were officially presented to the university over homecoming weekend as a gift from Brazos County.

Brazos County district clerk Marc Hamlin oversaw the preservation of the historic law documents, which was made possible through a grant from the State Bar of Texas.

Board of Regents member and U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals judge the Hon. Jennifer Elrod and retired judge of the 11th District Court in Harris County the Hon. Mark Davidson were integral in securing funds for the project, an approximately $7,000 undertaking.

Judge Baylor converted to Christianity in 1839 at the age of 46 and moved to Texas shortly afterward to spread the Gospel and continue his career in law. Judge Baylor was the third district judge in the Republic of Texas, and according to his biography, preached one of the first sermons offered in Waco.

“It’s said that Judge Baylor had a Bible in one saddlebag and a law book in the other saddlebag,” Hamlin said.

Judge Baylor’s law documents contain civil and criminal proceedings and allegations against elected officials.

Hamlin said seeing Judge Baylor’s signature was particularly significant to him personally as a district clerk. He said signatures are almost like the “holy grail” of an order signed by a judge.

Hamlin said most counties, like Brazos County, have gone paperless with law documents. Because most people are electronically signing documents, Hamlin said he believes the pen-to-paper aspect is going away and will be something future generations won’t have to look back on.

University archivist Leanna Barcelona said that looking at documents and materials with historical value not only inform people about where the university came from, but help them understand where it’s going.

“There’s just good research value and it’s also good to understand your history,” Barcelona said. “Baylor’s been around for over 150 years, so that’s a lot of things and decisions that happened. Having those kinds of materials here is really important.”

Baylor received a copy of the two-volumes of law documents, while the originals will remain in the Brazos County Courthouse on account of jurisdiction.

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