5 Things You Didn’t Know About Texas Judge Roy Bean

By  | 
Tony Maples Photography


Reality TV has Judge Judy for court entertainment, but the Wild West had Judge Roy Bean. Known as “the law west of Pecos,” Bean was a founder of the town of Langtry Texas, a saloon owner, and the Justice of the Peace. His rulings, however, are remembered as being—entertaining. His rumored reputation as a hanging judge preceded his actual amusing and unconventional rulings. There were only two occasions when Bean sentenced someone to death; one of them was hanged, but the other escaped. Here are 5 things you didn’t know about Judge Roy Bean.

1. Bean Judged Out of His Saloon, the Jersey Lilly

5 Things You Didn't Know About Texas Judge Roy Bean

Photo: @kyttan via Twenty20

Bean had some strange rulings. One of them was for minor offenses. Bean would fine offenders the duty of buying a round of drinks for the servants of the court and everyone at the saloon.

2. Bean Founded a Town and a Saloon After His Favorite Actress

Bean named the town Langtry after the English actress Lillie Langtry. He also named the saloon, Jersey Lilly, which was the actress’s nickname. He saw the actress in an illustration and had an enduring fondness for her. He followed her career through theatre magazines for the rest of his life.

3. Bean Was a Kind Man

Bean would take the fines collected from court and give them to the poor without being recognized for it. He would also take the money made from the saloon and buy medicine for the sick and destitute in his town and the surrounding areas.

4. Bean Paid All the Costs of the Court Out of the Collected Fines and Court Income

5 Things You Didn't Know About Texas Judge Roy Bean

Photo: @vasik0214 via Twenty20

This tactic kept Langtry’s court from owing any money to the county or state. When the Governor at the time heard complaints made that Langtry didn’t pay any funds to Austin, he wrote to the court. Bean replied that the Governor should run things in Austin and leave him to run things in Langtry. He also mentioned that his court didn’t cost the state any money. Bean didn’t hear back from the Governor.

5. Lillie Visited Langtry After Bean’s Death

Bean died in 1903 after a drinking spree in San Antonio. He lost his will to live when the construction of a power plant began on the Pecos River. Bean felt left behind in a world that was changing too quickly for him. Lillie Langtry, the object of his life-long affection, visited his grave ten months after his death. She explored the little community named after her, but she and Bean never met in person.