Tyler Today April/May 2017 : Page 40

The Man from Martins Mill, Judge Bill Bass by Robert Marlin The Smith County Bar Association is celebrating Law Day 2017 on April 26th. Part of the festivities that day includes the presentation of various awards to members of the Bar Association who have distinguished themselves as members of the legal profession. The planned awards include: Justice James W. “Bill” Bass-Justinian Award Robert H. Wilson-Award of Excellence Alesha Williams-Young Lawyer of the Year Jo Ruth Hancock-TAALP Legal Professional Terri Smith-Liberty Bell Award The Justinian Award for Professional Excellence is named after the Emperor Justinian I of the Roman Empire. He commanded ten of the wisest men in his realm to draw up a collection of Roman laws known as the Corpus Juris Civilis, which means “body of civil law.” The Justinian Award is being presented to Judge Bill Bass in recognition of his years of service on the bench at the 12th Court of Appeals in Tyler, acknowledging his integrity, service to the community, service to the legal profession and for his warmth, friendliness and camaraderie with his fellow legal professionals. Judge Bass’ father was in the Southwest Pacific for three years and ten months during World War II. While he was away, Bass’ mother decided the place for a ten-year-old boy was the Bass family farm in Martins Mill. “That move was a life-changing experience for me. Nobody had running water. Rural electrification didn’t reach our farm until the winter of ’46. So, I had the experience of doing my school work by the light of a kerosene lamp. I had a horse, a beagle hound, and on my eleventh birthday, I received a 16-shot .22 rifle. What else could a boy want?” The family moved back to Dallas a year after the war ended where young Bill’s father had returned to his pre-war job as Director of Public Health. However, young Bill continued to spend his summers working on the family farm. “I always knew I was going to come back to Martins Mill,” he recalls. 40 APRIL / MAY 2017 Bass graduated from North Dallas High School and entered Texas A&M when it was still an all-male military school. He took part in student government and was a member of the Ross Volunteer honor company. Upon graduation, Bass was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant of Field Artillery in the U. S. Army. Shortly after, he entered active duty; but, not before he met his future wife at the Esquire Theatre in Dallas. They dated for about six weeks and decided to get married. Bass went to Fort Sill, Oklahoma for five months. He and Patsy married immediately before Lt. Bass left for an eighteen-month tour of duty in Germany. Patsy followed three months later. The Hungarian Revolution broke out in 1956. The Cold War was heating up, “I spent most of my time guarding the border,” Bass recalls. Patsy was nineteen, had a new Austin Healy convertible and a German maid. She had plenty of time to travel and a husband who had to be gone half the time. “She was having such a good time, she wanted me to stay in the army,” remembers Judge Bass. Their first child, James, was born in Wiesbaden, Germany. After his discharge from the army, Bill and Patsy made it back to the farm in Martins Mill. They had a cow/calf operation and raised about one hundred acres of corn. “It was a great time. Patsy loved it, too. To be your own boss and go to work on your own place and eat every meal with the family – that’s a natural way to live,” says Bass. But, nature did not cooperate. 1963 and 1964 were the two driest years in Texas history up until that time. The drought devastated crop production and drove cattle prices down. During this period, the Bass family added three daughters. “I could see I wasn’t going to be able to support a wife and four children as a farmer. Farming is a great life, but not a great way to make money.” Bill was active in Van Zandt County politics. He was a precinct chairman of Martins Mill and county campaign

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