The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Local News

January 28, 2014

Former Anderson County DA, judge Melvin Whitaker dies at 81



While attending Baylor, he met the love of his life, Emma Lee Moore. They married Dec. 1, 1956.

After his graduation from Baylor, the Whitakers moved to Beaumont where they lived from 1958 to 1965. Whitaker practiced law there, also serving as treasurer and secretary of the Jefferson County Bar Association and as the 2nd Congressional District Director of the Texas State Junior Bar.

After meeting the late Palestine attorney Jim Bob Paxton at a full gospel meeting in Beaumont, Paxton offered Whitaker a job with his firm in Palestine — a town he had never been to before, according to a family member.

In 1965, the family moved to Palestine where they have lived since, except for one year in Pensacola, Fla. followed by one year in Washington, D.C. (1968-70). Whitaker served as Counsel for Federal National Mortgage Association and later as Trial Counsel for the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C.

Upon their return to Texas, Whitaker resumed his trial practice in Palestine. He was a trial lawyer for most of his professional life. He was elected to the Palestine City Council and was serving as Finance Commissioner in 1973 when Texas Gov. Dolph Briscoe appointed him District Attorney for the 173rd Judicial District to which he was elected for three terms (1973-1984). This district covered Anderson, Henderson and Houston counties. In 1984, Texas Gov. Mark White appointed Whitaker as a judge of the 349th Judicial District Court for Anderson and Houston counties to which he was elected in November 1984. He was re-elected in 1988, without opposition.

He left the bench in Palestine around 1991 then served as visiting senior judge in the drug courts in Dallas. He and his son, Palestine attorney Stuart Whitaker, opened up their firm Whitaker & Whitaker in April 1994. At the time of his death, the senior Whitaker was still practicing law.

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