He neither wore a robe nor bore any symptoms of the overly inflated ego one sometimes sees among the ranks of the judiciary today, yet Thomas J. Stovall may well have been the wisest and most respected state district judge of his time. Stovall was the judge other jurists went to for advice.
A PT boat commander in the South Pacific during World War II, Stovall drew respect for his common sense and broad knowledge of the law. He was a patient man with a kindly manner who always enjoyed a good joke or story, but most of all he was a man devoted to justice and fair play.
Stovall was appointed to the 129th District Court in 1958 by Gov. Price Daniels and at the time was the youngest judge on the Harris County bench. He served for 25 years until Gov. Mark White appointed him administrative judge for the Second Administrative Judicial Region in 1983, a post he held until 1996.
Stovall not only proved an outstanding judge in many celebrated cases, he also helped to bring about the county's one-day, one-trial jury service, a practice copied around the nation. He also worked to simplify instructions to jurors and improve the county's judicial record-keeping.
Stovall no doubt was proud the Aldine ISD named a middle school (Stovall Middle School) after him in 1963, but he never mentioned the honor.
He believed in the Constitution, justice and an honest court system open to all. Before his retirement, Judge Stovall was fond of pointing out that there were no locks on courtroom doors in Harris County at the time, proof of the openness in the court system he so ably served.