"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the State of Texas is divided into four judicial districts, which shall be called the northern, the eastern, the southern and the western judicial districts of the State of Texas."
With these words the 57th Congress of the United States of America created the Southern Judicial District of Texas in 1902.
As promised in his campaign platform, President James Polk signed legislation annexing Texas and making it the 28th state on Dec. 29, 1845. Texas was originally considered one judicial district under the leadership of Judge John C. Watrous. The court was also granted circuit court powers meaning appeals went straight to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1857, congress created the Eastern and Western District of Texas and appointed Thomas Duval to be the judge of the Western District. Texas continued to grow, and in 1879, congress formed the Northern District. As the railroads continued to expand and fuel the Texas economy, congress created the Southern District on July 1, 1902, appointing Waller T. Burns to the bench as the district’s first judge.
The federal statute which created the new southern district specified that “The district attorney for the Eastern Judicial District shall continue to be the district attorney for the Southern Judicial District.” By this act, Marcus McLemore, who had served as the USA for the Eastern District of Texas, became the first USA for the new Southern District. In 1906, President Roosevelt named Lodowick “Lock” McDaniel of Grimes County, Texas, to be the first man appointed as the United States Attorney for the SDTX.
Originally, the SDTX covered 36 counties. The court and the U.S. Attorney rotated between Galveston, Laredo, Brownsville and Houston which was a new seat for the court. Over the years, divisions were added, counties were transferred and divided and more judges and U.S. Attorney’s offices were opened.
Currently, the Southern District consists of six divisions covering 43 counties with 150 attorneys on staff.
Each division has a federal courthouse and a sitting judge. The USAO has permanently staffed field offices in every division except Galveston.
To learn about the former leaders of the district, go to USAs.