texas courthouses Through The Lens: Great Texas Courthouses

Bill Morgan holding his painting of the Denton County Courthouse. (credit: Mike Kinney/CBS 11 News)

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – In my years of television news, I have been to several Texas counties. I always enjoy seeing the county courthouses, many of which date back to the late 1800’s. So when I heard about Bill Morgan, a local artist that paints pictures of our great Texas courthouses, I wanted to tell his story.

Bill grew up around the corner from the Webb County courthouse and told me as a child he was fascinated by what went on inside. During the 1960’s He decided he was going to get a camera and start taking pictures of all 254 courthouses around the state and try to produce a book. Then he found out he wasn’t the only one with that idea and trying to raise a family and work didn’t leave much time for his new hobby.

When his daughter graduated from law school, he tried painting the courthouse she worked in but felt he had done better work in kindergarten. So he sat out to teach himself architectural painting. He told me he learned through much trial and error, in his words “there were many errors for every trial.”

Perseverance led to Morgan painting several courthouses and putting them together as a calendar. Then a publisher asked if he wanted to make a book out of his paintings. Old Friends: Great Texas Courthouses was published in 1999.

Now Morgan has painted about 100 courthouses from around the state. As he flipped though several of his paintings and told me great stories about each courthouse. My favorite story is of the original Cooke County courthouse that was knocked down by a ranchers bull in 1853. In the minutes from the next county commissioners meeting they decided they should build a better courthouse one that “shall be built so strong that Jim Dickson’s bull or no other damn bull can butt it down.” Stories like that are priceless pieces of Texas history, just like each one of the old courthouses.

Next time you drive by an old Texas courthouse, do yourself a favor and get out and walk around Bill Morgan’s old friend and soak in a little Texas history.

Mike Kinney

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