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Judge John W. Wildenthal Records

Identifier: MSS 0313

Scope and Contents

Much of the research included in this collection – saltwater barriers on the Trinity River, bus service, etc. – are projects Wildenthal addressed during his time as Houston City Attorney. Material also inlcudes his religious activities and political campaign information.


  • 1959-1982
  • Majority of material found within 1964-1978

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish or reproduce materials from MSS 0313 Judge John W. Wildenthal Records must be obtained from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center or the appropriate copyright holder.

Biographical Note

Judge John W. Wildenthal was born in Cotulla, Texas, on November 10, 1922. He attended Southwest Texas State Teacher’s College, and the University of Texas. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Texas in February 1944. Following his graduation, Wildenthal served in the US Navy during World War II. After his discharge as a lieutenant, Wildenthal gained his law degree from the University of Texas in 1950. Following his graduation, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Wildenthal a member of his “Washington Legal staff.” Under Johnson, Wildenthal also served as attorney for the Senate Preparedness Subcommittee. He joined the General Counsel’s office of the Renegotiation Board in 1952. After three years in Washington, Wildenthal returned to Cotulla in 1953 to open a private law practice. John Wildenthal was elected County Attorney of La Salle County in 1958, and appointed Assistant Attorney General of Texas in 1959. He demonstrated his party commitment and loyalty when he became a member of the State Democratic Executive Committee, and managed the Dollars for Democrats campaign in 1959. During the same year, Wildenthal married Ms. Carolyn Harris. They had two children, Jon Mark Wildenthal and Mary Elizabeth Wildenthal.

In 1961, Wildenthal pursued his law practice in Houston, Texas, and became the campaign manager for Louie Welch. Louie Welch ran unsuccessfully for the Mayor of Houston in 1961, but won the same position in 1963. Welch selected Wildenthal as city attorney in 1964. Wildenthal worked on projects such as gaining water and sewer lines and service for Acres Homes during his time as Houston City Attorney.

His political career included a run for the Democratic nomination of the Seventh Congressional District in 1965. His Democratic opponent was Frank Briscoe, and the Republican opponent was future US President George Bush. Wildenthal also served as Vice President of the Gulf Coast Waste Disposal Authority from 1968 to 1972.

Wildenthal was a trustee and member of Bellaire Christian Church, and a delegate for the Gulf Coast Area Christian Churches and the Texas Council of Churches. He worked with religious projects such as the Texas Conference of Churches and Institute of Religion, including his legal contributions to the establishment and dedication of the Rothko Chapel. Judge Wildenthal was a member of the Houston Bar Association, Federal Bar Association, the Bar of the Supreme Court of Texas, and the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States.


6 Linear Feet (8 document boxes, 1 small box, 1 large flat box)

Language of Materials



Series 1 Gulf Coast Waste Disposal Authority materials

Series 2 Harris-Galveston Coastal Subsidence District materials

Series 3 Texas Self-Development Fund, Inc. materials

Series 4 Texas Council of Churches materials

Series 5 Texas Conference of Churches

Series 6 Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ) of Texas materials, Coastal Plains Area

Series 7 Texas Medical Center – Institute of Religion materials

Series 8 Federal Bar Association

Series 9 Houston Inter-Faith Housing Corporation materials

Series 10 Studies of Citizens’ Attitudes Toward Houston’s Growth Problems

Series 11 Personal information and correspondence

Series 12 Published article

Series 13 Political campaign materials

Series 14 Dollars for Democrats materials

Series 15 Messages to the Prison Chaplain

Series 16 Scrapbooks

Acquisition Information

Donated by: Judge John W. Wildenthal in 1986

Processing Information

Processed by Martha Grace Cromeens, March 2002.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houston Metropolitan Research Center Repository


The African American Library at the Gregory School
1300 Victor Street
Houston, Texas 77019
Houston Metropolitan Research Center
Houston Public Library
550 McKinney St.
Houston, Texas 77002