Judge fondly remembered

by Leland Debusk

Hood County News April 26, 2001

Some people characterized former county judge James Milton Meyer as stubborn and cantankerous. Others pictured him as a fair, honest and wonderful man.

Whatever people thought of Meyer, there’s no escaping the fact that he made great contributions to Hood County. Meyer served as county judge for 20 years and held posts on the hospital board and school board, as well as the board of directors of Pecan Valley Mental Health and Retardation. Meyer’s tenure serves as the longest of all Hood County judges.

When Meyer took over as county judge in 1970, he presided over the huge city and county growth that blossomed from the creation of Lake Granbury just a year before.

Meyer, 74, passed away Tuesday at Trinity Mission of Granbury nursing home (formerly Valley View). He had been in nursing homes since a stroke several years ago.

Nora Porter was Meyer’s secretary from 1976 to 1990. “He was honest and he spoke his mind,” she said of Meyer. “He didn’t sit on the fence. He was just a really good person. He was a wonderful, wonderful man.”

Hood County deputy county clerk Reva Hendrix worked with Meyer for eight years in roles ranging from county treasurer to deputy county clerk. “He was everything that a county judge should be,” she said. “He was a wonderful man. He was fair. He was a good husband and father. He was not only the county judge when I worked with him, he was my friend.”

“I loved him,” said former county clerk Angie Ables. Ables worked with Meyer for 12 years as county clerk. “He was a wonderful man to work with. He was a very fair judge. He was a strong anchor for our commissioners’ court. He always treated me very fairly.”

Former county commissioner David Cleveland worked with Meyer for 12 years. “I always thought a lot of the judge,” Cleveland said. “He was a nice guy. He was always patient with me when I was a green commissioner. He was always available to answer any questions. He was the most conservative man I’d ever met.

“He had a good sense of humor,” Cleveland recalled. One time, officers had confiscated a large amount of contraband, included a “big handgun, a huge pistol,” said Cleveland.

Meyer decided to play a joke with the big gun, Cleveland stated. He stuck the gun in his waistband, went up to a deputy and asked him to show him his service revolver. Meyer expressed disdain with what he considered a small pistol, Cleveland said. “That’s no pistol,” he told the deputy, pulling the huge pistol out of his pants. “Now this is a pistol,” Cleveland recalled of Meyer’s joke.

After graduating from Granbury High School, Meyer joined the U.S. Air Force and served in World War II. He married Mildred Jean Denny in 1948. Meyer was a sixth-generation Hood Countian and his mother Lillie Belle Meyer is still living in Granbury on the property where she was born 94 years ago, say family members.

The Meyers moved away from Granbury, but returned in 1951, when they opened a small grocery store on the square. They moved off the square in 1956 to a location on South Morgan Street that was later the location of the Ko Chun Chinese restaurant. After selling his grocery store to Buddies (now Winn-Dixie), Meyer ran for and was elected county judge in 1970.

When Meyer took office in 1970, family members say, the courthouse was not even air conditioned and had only one electric typewriter. Before he was elected, county employees didn’t have insurance, hospitalization or retirement, said family members.

During his administration, Meyer presided over moving the hospital from the area of the square to its present location on 377 West, now known as Lake Granbury Medical Center. Meyer and county commissioners had to petition the state Legislature to make the area a hospital district.

Meyer was also a founding director of Granbury State Bank, now known as Community Bank. He was instrumental in construction of the first Hood County law enforcement center.

Meyer also served on the executive board of the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

In November 1990, Meyer, a Democrat, lost a reelection bid by 49 votes to Republican candidate Don Cleveland. Cleveland went on to be the first Republican to serve as county judge in Hood County.

On his last day as county judge on Dec. 31, 1990, Meyer treated the day as any other day in office, Porter said in a 1991 story. “He figured he was the judge until the 31st,” Porter stated. “He did what needed to be done. That speaks for his character.” After packing up his belongings, Meyer left his office just as quietly as he had come in that day, Porter recalled.

In February 1991, the Hood County Bar Association sponsored an appreciation banquet for Meyer at Acton United Methodist Church. Among the awards presented to Meyer was a beautiful plaque designed by Hood County sculptor Covelle Jones. “You’ll always be Judge Meyer to me,” emcee Dan Coates told the former judge.

Two highlights in Meyer’s life included a hole-in-one at the Starr Hollow Country Club golf course. A second was Meyer’s 1995 trip to Russia in which he worked with locals on ranching practices.

Commissioner Bob Anderson and local developer Garry Luker have been spearheading a drive in recent years to create a county park in Meyer’s honor. Called Milton Meyer Park, the men want to locate the proposed park in the vicinity of the Hills of Granbury and Mountain View Estates.

Funeral services will be at 3 p.m. today (Thursday) at Granbury Church of Christ.

Minister Stan Reid and district judge Ralph Walton will officiate. Interment will be at Fairview Cemetery in Hood County.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Hood County Committee on Aging and the Lake Granbury Medical Center Auxilary.