John Holt Rice, III
of Navarro County, Texas


Biography Index || Judges of Navarro County || Obituary Index



From the Collection of Edward L. Williams


John Holt Rice, III, County Judge
Jan 28, 1853 - Jan 11, 1921


Funeral Will Take Place Thursday From First Presbyterian

JUDGE j. h. Rice, who had been a highly esteemed citizen and prominent member of the Corsicana bar for many years, died at his home here last night, after many months of ill health. The deceased was born in Charlotte Courthouse, Va., July 28, 1853, and came to Corsicana many years ago while his father was pastor here. He was a life long member of that church and was a member of Hella Temple, Dallas, and well known as a Mason over Texas. He was at one time county judge of Navarro county, and in all the walks of life was known as a man of the highest character, and as such was esteemed by all who knew him. The deceased is survived by his wife, one brother, D. N. Rice, and three sisters, Misses Fannie, Porter and Lacy Rice.

Interment will take place in Oakwood tomorrow afternoon after services at the First Presbyterian church at 3 o’clock, and will be under the auspices of the Masonic lodge.

Following are the active pall bearers:
J. S. Murchison, Dr. T. W. Watson, R. J. Graves, S. J. Helm, R. C. Calkins, B. F. Hartzell, Kenneth Bullock, W. W. Evans.

The following will act as honorary pallbearers:

J. M. Blanding, Dr. J. S. Daniel, Dr. E. H. Newton, Dr. I. N. Suttle, Capt. Jas. Garitty, R. E. Prince, J. M. Dyer, E. L. Bell, Dr. J. B. Cooksey, W. M. Clarkson, Geo. T. Jester, S. A. Pace, L. B. Cobb, Richard Mays, E. P. Walker, R. L. Frazier, H. E. Wassell, Kerr McClellan, W. M. Tatum. Rufus Hardy, G. W. Mitchell, W. J. McKie, Murphey Williams, Wylie Johnson, R. R. Owen, J. H. Woods, B. L. Davis, A. A. Wortham, W. G. Baker, A. G. Elliott, J. A. Thompson, B. B. Munsey, I. N. Cerf, G. W. Tidd, Meyer Cohen, A. D. Porter, E. Raphael, Robt. Jerrett, B. Marks, Isaac Levy, J. M. Gordon, A. M. Milligan, A. Fox, C. C. Walton, Bige Tinkle, E. D. McCarver, W. J. Lunn, J. T. Robinson, W. H. Penland, H. G. Bryant, Ralph Beaton, T. M. Cobb, George Crumley, J. S. Sands, J. G. Comfort, C. G. Davidson, R. M. McMullen, Chatfield; W. L. Medaris, Roane; F. C. Hand, Dallas, W. G. Proctor, Dallas; W. E. Elliott, Dallas; Hal W. Greer, Beaumont; L. Edward Greer; E. J. Gibson, Dallas; Homer Carrol, Kerens; P. H. Loggins, Ft. Worth; R. H. Daniels, Kerens; W. S. Price, Kerens; J. E. Butler, R. B. Molloy, Mike Howard, Harry D. Johnson, R. L. Hamilton.


Will Adjourn for Funeral.

The district and county courts will adjourn tomorrow during the funeral services for the late Judge J. H. Rice in honor to his memory.

The Corsicana Daily Sun - Wednesday, January 12, 1921 - Submitted by Diane Richards


Large Number Attended Funeral of Judge Jno. H. Rice.

It was a splendid tribute that the people among whom he had lived for so many years paid Judge Rice yesterday. When the hour for the funeral exercises to begin had arrived the First Presbyterian church was filled with the men and women who had known him from youth to old age. The alter was covered with flowers and so was the casket. The members of the bar were in attendance, district and county court having suspended out of respect to him. He had practiced law for many years and had been honored with office. His follow lawyers were his friends, therefore they paid him the respect of their presence. Members of the Masonic lodge were out in force and the regalia of the Blue Lodge and the uniform of the Knights Templar. He had been an honored member of the Masonic Lodge for many years and was always faithful and true. He had drunk deep at the Masonic fountain of knowledge. His brothers loved him and will miss him. The members of the First Presbyterian church were in attendance. Throughout his long life he showed unfaltering devotion to his church. He was a constant attendant on its services and contributed liberally to its enterprises. The members are sad at heart because he has left them, and there were many present to pay their respects. There were men and women who were not members of the fraternal order to which he devoted so much time nor of the church of his preference present who in that way bore witness that they too, mourned his departure.

The services were conducted by Rev. Mr. Storey, the pastor. There were songs by the choir. The pastor read a scripture lesson and Rev. Mr. Booth, pastor of the First Methodist church, offered a prayer. Rev. Mr. Storey, after dwelling upon points of scripture that were comforting to the bereaved wife, brother and sisters and other relatives, spoke fervently of Judge Rice’s love for his church. He missed none of the services and regardless of his great love for the Masonic lodge he did not permit that love to lure him even temporarily from the Wednesday night prayer meetings. “He loved the Masons second to the church,” said the pastor but when meetings of the two conflicted he invariable gave his church the preference, often going from the Wednesday night prayer meeting to the attendance of lodge.

Presiding Elder Porter of this conference district spoke of Judge Rice as a Mason. He told of their first meeting which was in the lodge room, and said that meeting had resulted in other meetings in which he had learned much of Masonry. He knew the order, said the speaker, from Entered Apprentice to the Commandery, and gave much time to the order. In point of membership he is the oldest Mason among us. We looked to him for guidance. That first meeting ripened into a friendship that to me became very valuable. The speaker referred to the open meeting of the Knights Templar a few weeks ago and of Judge Rice presiding. He referred to his gentleness, knightly bearing and gallantry as he passed among the members and their wives greeting them, and said, “I shall always remember Judge Rice at our last meeting. I stand today with a tear and choked voice while I recall how I saw and heard him speak,” and closed by saying that “Judge Rice believed that to be a Knight Templar meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ.”

Then followed a prayer with every head bowed, the Masons took charge of the funeral and at the cemetery the order of which he was an honor member laid him to rest.

The Corsicana Daily Sun - Friday, January 14, 1921 - Submitted by Diane Richards


Bar Association Called to Meet Sunday, February 20th

I hereby call a meeting of the Navarro County Bar Association to be held in the District Court room, on Sunday, February 20th, 1921, at 3 o’clock p.m. The purpose of this meeting is to hold a memorial service for our late friend and brother, Judge John H. Rice. All members of the Bar are requested to be present and the public are invited to take part in these services.

J. M. BLANDING, President.
Resolution committee—Messrs, W. J. McKie, L. B. Cobb, R. B. Molloy.
Program Committee—Messrs. Richard Mays, C. L. Jester, Luther A. Johnson

The Corsicana Daily Sun - Saturday, February 12, 1921 - Submitted by Diane Richards

Corsicana Bar Pays Tribute to Memory Of John Holt Rice

Survives him. Of this union there were no children.

Upon the death of his father, he returned to Tennessee and brought back with him to Corsicana his widowed mother and four young sisters and from that time to the day of his death cared for and cherished them as tenderly and lovingly as a father always living with them and giving them the benefit of his advice, counsel and protection. At the death of one sister, he took her baby boy, two days old (John Rice Rose) and reared him as his own, cherishing and caring for him as a wise and loving father, until the death of this boy soon after reaching young manhood.

A few years ago, upon the death of his cousin, B. R. Forman, of New Orleans, he sent for his orphan son, Benjamin Rice Forman, and had him brought to Corsicana, then a young boy of eight, and again took upon himself the responsibilities and care of a father, although at that time he was in declining health, and at the time of his death was rearing and educating this boy as his own.

He is survived by his wife, three sisters and his orphan cousin, all members of his household, and a brother, D. N. Rice, of Corsicana.

He was a life-long member, and for much of the time an officer, in the Presbyterian church.

After Victor Hugo had filled and thrilled the world with the noblest thoughts and truest sentiments that ever adorned the literary page, he is reported to have said that his divinest thoughts and sublimest sentiments had never been expressed because there were no words, known to the vocabulary of men, by which to express them. And we fell the inadequacy of mere words to express our appreciation of the life and character of our deceased friend.

As a judge, he displayed marked ability; he was fair, impartial, and demeaned himself as a pure and unselfish patriot and able officer.

As a lawyer, he served his clients with energetic zeal and ability and was always affable and courteous to the other members of the bar, and scrupulously observant of all those finer amenities that characterize the real gentleman.

As a citizen of this community for many years, his life as a courteous gentleman justly merited the approbation of all with whom he came in contact.

He was a democrat of the old school and his life was characterized by unswerving loyalty to his party and state. He staunchly adhered to the principles of the great primary sovereignty of the state and the maintenance of power always remaining in it and residing with the people and he believed that the highest order of patriotic endeavor and the most sincere contribution to the cause of good government was to be found in that which magnified and dignified the state in all its pristine vigor as the fathers intended it to exercise over its internal affairs and he believed in the highest standard of political virtue and individual rectitude.

He was a man of wide reading not only of ancient and modern history, but greatly enjoyed the high class productions of ancient and modern fiction, both of prose and poetry and perhaps in this line of study and cultivation he has not been surpassed by any member of the Corsicana bar.

His clean business life and high integrity was not only well-known to his brother lawyers, but to the entire business community. He stood for the right always and along all lines, this being a well known and distinguishing characteristic of his life and personality, and with this purity of character, he was a courteous, polished gentleman—as refined and gentle as a woman, yet strong and courageous to the end, as evidenced by his uncomplaining, courageous fight against the Grim Reaper for the period of at least sixty days before his removal from among us.

He was a zealous member of the Masonic fraternity, and at the time of his death he was regarded as one of the most learned Masons in the state. Entering the ancient order with a classical education, its history and philosophy grasped his thoughts, and he delved deeply into its mysteries and symbolism, showing a love, zeal and loyalty to the fraternity, which is equaled by few. All the honors of the subordinate bodies were given him, and he was a faithful and beloved member long after he had enjoyed all the honors. The excellent moral teachings made him consider Masonry second only to his church. He also served the grand bodies in important places and lent his attention to the solving of problems of statewide scope, involving law, finance and education. In every capacity, he served with credit and distinction to himself and honor to the fraternity.

Now that our friend has passed beneath the glow of life’s setting sun, we feel that we may truthfully say of him:

“Life’s race well run,
Life’s deeds well done,
Life’s crown well won.”

Therefore be it resolved that in the death of John Hold Rice, the bar of Texas has lost one of its highly honored and distinguished members, and the bar of Corsicana, a brother whose loss we deeply deplore, our state and city, a good citizen, and his family, an affectionate husband and brother. That we tender the bereaved family of our deceased brother, our sincerest sympathy in their loss; that his report be spread upon the minutes of the District Court of Navarro County Texas.

W. J. McKIE,

Hon. W. J. McKie seconded the motion to adopt and in doing so spoke of Judge Rice as “A Man and a Lawyer,” in the course of which he referred to his first acquaintance with him, his close association with him in the practice of law as a partner. “I knew him for more than forty years. “ said Mr. McKie. He knew him as “a good lawyer and an honest man, and,” he said, “my association with him was very close and for two years as young men, we roomed together, and that association laid the foundation for a life friendship. We were associated together in the practice of our profession, and as a lawyer he impressed me as being discriminating and accurate in all matters that came to his attention. He was scrupulously honest in all his advice. He was always conscientious. He handled his cases well in the courthouse and showed careful preparation. He took pride in exhausting his subject before committing it to paper and his papers were perfection.” Speaking of him as a man, Mr. McKie introduced that part of his subject by saying, “To be a real lawyer one must be a man and he should be a man. Judge Rice was a good lawyer and a man—a good, high-minded man. As a companion he was not surpassed, he was not inferior to any man within my acquaintance. Intelligent, well read, entertaining, fond of his friends and democratic, cordial to all and to his close friends he was an ideal associate.:

Mr. J. S. Callicutt said he “had heard with pleasure the reading of the resolutions and I add my complete endorsement to them.: He, too, spoke of his first acquaintance with Judge Rice. Mr. Callicutt was then a boy and he spoke of the manly manner in which Judge Rice had conducted his campaign as a candidate for county judge and how it had impressed him. He spoke of the personnel of the bar of that day, saying it “was made up of distinguished lawyers. Judge Rice had an unswerving devotion to matters he thought to be right yet you never heard him harshly criticize a man who did not agree with him.” In this connection Mr. Callicutt referred to Judge Rice’s devotion to his church, “yet he had not a harsh word for those who did not agree with him,” and added, “so also in his political convictions.” Judge Rice’s work as a member of the school board, and his successful efforts in “importuning the legislature” to make appropriations for the betterment of conditions at the State Orphan Home, and how he had seen the “children there gather about him, clinging to his coat and his hands,” all portrayed the great heart and the tenderness of the man and, he declared, “there was never a more immaculate or a more generous character.” Closing, Mr. Callicutt said with feeling: “He was a courteous, knightly Southerner and a Christian gentleman.”

Hon. R. E. Prince recalled the death of Judge Frost January 1, 1908; Judge R. S. Neblett, January 18, 1918; Judge J. J. McStellan, July 16, 1920, and Judge Rice, January 11, 1921, and said, referring to the latter, “We have come to pay the last respect to his memory,” and added, “this was a stalwart company that has passed from us,” and said if we have not profited by the lives of these men “then we must have no desire to become great characters.” Continuing Mr. Prince said, “He knew and was known of God” and making a further quotation from the Bible, Mr. Prince declared, “those words cover Judge Rice as with a mantle.” Asking “what part did he take in glorifying God” and “what is it to glorify God,” he answered. “Faith and love of his fellow man. John H. Rice exercised faith in a rare degree. He put into existence those Godly attributes that make character great.” His honesty was referred to as were his other virtues and these he “put into existence in his life and glorified God.” His family relations were referred as being sacred, as was that of his love for his fellow man and “therefore beyond a doubt he knew and was known of God.”

Judge H. B. Daviss referred to him as an upright, Christian gentleman, honest in every sense and also spoke of his excellent qualities as a lawyer.

Hon. Richard Mays had a letter from State Senator J. H. Woods, now in Austin attending to his legislative duties, in which the writer referred to Judge Rice as his friend and neighbor and as a useful man to the bar and the community.

After reading the letter Mr. Mays asked “ permission to add my own personal testimony.” He spoke eloquently of Judge Rice’s life and in closing he said he felt that he had “suffered a personal loss: and that a “prince has fallen in Israel.”

Mr. Ballew spoke earnestly of the life and character of the man and the influence that Judge Rice’s life had had upon him. Judge Rice had told him that he had “had the death sentence passed upon him in 1894 by his physician and he knew it was only a question of time but with faith and trust and manhood he never lost his courage nor shuddered or trembled, but walked in a manly, upright manner.”

Judge Stout had known him intimately for forty-four years and spoke of him as a lawyer and Christian gentleman, and said, “I endorse everything that has been said.” He reviewed the early history of lawyers in the practice of law here and paid Judge Rice a particularly high compliment in which he said his advice was always good and the bar has lost one of its most substantial members.

Mr. Mays offered the suggestion that when the proceedings of the memorial service were spread upon the records of the court that space be left at the top of the page for a photograph of Judge Rice to be placed for the purpose of “not only reflecting his worth but giving expression to his physical action.:

Judge Blanding announced the adoption of the resolutions, and the Rev. Mr. Storey was called on to pronounce the benediction.

In this impressive manner the final tribute to Judge Rice was brought to an end.

The Corsicana Daily Sun - Monday, February 21, 1921 - Submitted by Diane Richards


Lifelong Friend of Deceased Writes Interestingly on Subject

The following tribute to the late Judge John H. Rice has been received by Miss Fannie Rice from Judge B. L. Davis, a life long friend of the deceased:

Corsicana, Tex., Feb. 28, 1921.
Miss Fannie Y. Rice,
Corsicana, Texas.

Dear Miss Fannie:
I regret beyond expression in words that my physical condition was such as to render it impossible for me to attend the recent memorial services held in honor of your lamented brother, the Hon. John H. Rice. I was just recovering from a spell of “grippe” which had settled in my throat so that I could scarcely speak above a whisper without coughing. I am not entirely over it yet, but feel that I can not delay longer conveying to you and the family my sorrow at being absent on that occasion, and in doing so I can not resist the desire to give expression to some of the thoughts which come trooping to my mind with reference to his life and work in this community.

My acquaintance with Judge Rice began in the summer of 1884. I had spent some five years away from Corsicana attending school and had returned here the previous year almost a stranger in my own home, in debt and compelled to earn my own living while studying law. Judge Rice was in the midst of his race for County Judge, to which position he was elected the following November, defeating one of the brightest young lawyers and fascinating gentlemen our bas has ever known. Having recently married a young and beautiful wife, the youngest daughter of one of the foremost families in the State, and having been elected to the office of his choice—educated, polished and refined—he was my ideal of everything a young lawyer should be. My admiration and attachment for him was spontaneous and complete. You can therefore imagine my delight when he invited me to come into his office as a student and assistant, giving me the benefit of his library and instruction and paying me besides the sum of twenty-five ($25.00) dollars per month, which was very liberal considering the meager pay the County Judge received in those days. Though I had been receiving the same pay and instruction from another firm, I did not hesitate to accept his offer. And just here I trust you with pardon for digressing enough to say for the benefit of the present generation of young people that I not only lived on that twenty-five ($25.00) dollars, but paid board and went into society; but in those days “a man and a maid could entertain each other without the aid of the moving picture show and the automobile. Thus was begun an attachment and friendship which continued to the day of his death.

Corsicana has always had and now has an unusually able bar, but I believe that at the period mentioned, she had the greatest galaxy of legal talent of any small country town within my knowledge. Among the older men were the firms of Frost, Barry and Lee, Simpkins and Simpkins, Neblett and Hardy, Croft and Blanding, Nic and F. N. Read, R. C. Beale and J. F. Stout. And fresh in the minds of all were the names of Clinton M. Winkler, Joshua L. Halbert and Roger Mills, the last mentioned then serving this District in the National Congress with distinguished honor. In the younger set were the Greer Bros., W. J. McKie, John H. Rice, McClellan and Prince, Jas. L. Autry and E. O. Call. These men were giants in the profession, and Judge Rice by his learning and fairness as presiding judge won instant recognition from them, and from that time until death maintained his place as one of the leading lawyers at this bar.

Fifteen of the best years of my life were spent in his company, one year as his disciple and employe, and fourteen years as partner in the practice of law. He presented my application to the District Court for license to practice law, and was one of the committee which examined me.

During the period that Judge Rice was serving this County as Judge (which, by the way, was as long as he would accept the office) I was working on a salary as attorney for some of the land mortgage companies which required my removal to Ft. Worth. Some time before my contract with the Land Mortgage Company at Fort Worth expired, I realized that if I ever had a business of my own or ever hoped to be my own master, I must quit the salary and go into the practice on my own account. I returned to Corsicana for this purpose. Judge Rice had a short time before this quit the county Judge’s office and again entered the practice. We were instinctively and naturally drawn together. We had many things in common. We had become intimately acquainted during the year spent together as above stated. We were each the son of a minister who had spent his life in the active ministry. We were both poor, and having been out of active practice so long, we had no established clientle and had to depend on our own efforts for success. At this time and under these conditions he offered me a partnership which I gladly accepted. We were constantly together in this relationship for fourteen years, and I believe I knew Judge Rice better than anyone else outside of his own family.

I have visited in his house, I have “broken bread” at his table, and have been in constant communion with him as partner and friend for many years, and I can not close this letter without testifying to his great worth as a man and a citizen. He was a good citizen in all that term implies. In every relationship of life he was faithful and true—true to his family, his church, his friends and his State. Although a busy lawyer during our association, he gave much of his time to service of his city, county, and state. And in this connection I will mention two matters which I have not seen referred to and which I am sure are not generally known to the public:

(1.) It was directly through his skill and untiring efforts that the city acquired that splendid block of ground known as the “Convent School Property,” at a price much below the value of the ground alone.
(2.) He was the moving and directing factor in the purchase of the ground on which the Masonic Temple is situated and the erection of the beautiful building that now adorns it. He made the deal for the ground, examined the title to it. He was the most active member of the building committee, and procured the funds with which to, complete its erection. That building was a source of constant delight to him, and no parent ever watched the growth of a child with more pride that he watched its erection and furnishing.

His friends were co-extensive with his acquaintances. If he had any enemies I never heard of them. People of all classes loved and trusted him because they knew he was dependable, that he never broke a promise or betrayed a trust, that they could place their money, their honor and business in his hands and sleep sound over it. He was a man of broad and varied information, a ripe scholar and a writer of classic English. All his papers, whether civil, ecclesiastical or legal, were gems of their kind. He was a safe and reliable attorney, but his most noble work was as a counsellor, wherein he displayed distinguished ability. His advice was sought and accepted on many weighty and complicated problems. About a year ago he was called upon for an opinion on property rights running well up into six figures in value. At the same time the opinions of some three or four other eminent law firms in different parts of the state were taken on the same question, none of them knowing that the others had been consulted. These opinions afterwards fell into my hands for consideration and review, and in going carefully over them both Judge Jester and myself decided that Judge Rice’s was the soundest and best reasoned of them all.

He was a Christian gentleman of the highest order. For more than a year before his death he knew he was afflicted with a malady that was gradually sapping his strength and that might take his life at any time, but no word of complaint escaped him. He fought bravely on for life, yet death had no terrors for him. It was not permitted me to be with him in his last hours, but in my vision of that death bed scene I can see him as he crossed the dark river of death with calm and unruffled mien, with a smile of victory on his lips as he hears the Master’s voice saying: “Well done thou good and faithful servant enter thou in the Kingdon of Heaven,” and I see the radiant faces of his sainted father and mother as they lean over the battlements of Heaven to welcome their first born son into his everlasting home.

Sincerely yours,




Oakwood Cemetery, Corsicana, Navarro County, Texas
Marker Photo by Dana (Bell) Stubbs


Navarro County TXGenWeb
© Copyright February, 2020
Edward L. Williams