Judge Roy Bean
(1827 - March 16, 1903)
Roy Bean was an eclectic character who seemed to make his own way. In his early years, he was involved in freighting along the Santa Fe trail, involved in several duels and was once hanged after one such event. The rope stretched and his feet touched the ground. He was cut down by the woman who was the subject of the duel. Roy did have a scar around his neck and could not move his head without turning his body, so this tale may be true.
He went to San Antonio, married and ran a saloon for about twenty years. Bean eventually migrated to western Texas and started the town called Vinegaroon. He later renamed it Langtry after the actress of his dreams. His saloon was called the Jersey Lilly in honor of this fantasy.
Here, he was self-appointed justice of the peace and called himself "Law West of the Pecos". His method of justice was somewhat odd and comical, but always final. On one occasion, a dead body had $40 and a gun. He fined the dead body $40 for carrying a concealed weapon. On another occasion, a person proclaimed he intended to habeas corpus his client. Roy Bean stated he would hang him for using profanity in the court.
He became nationally known by staging a heavy weight championship fight on an island of the Rio Grande. This allowed him to bypass the Texas law prohibiting boxing matches. It was on Mexican soil.
Shortly after his death Lily Langtry visited Langtry Texas.
Judge Roy Bean is buried at the Whitehead Museum in Del Rio, Texas.
Information compiled by Steve Grimm
Drawing by Richard Florence
Books About Judge Roy Bean
Roy Bean: Law West of the Pecos by C.L. Sonnichsen
There are a lot of tales and folklore about Roy Bean. I have yet to sort these fables from truth.