Historical Documents

The Historical Document Room was opened to the public on October 24, 2006. The room is available for viewing historical documents from 1837—1925. These court records are not just paper, they are valuable sources of Texas' and Houston’s history. Some of the most badly deteriorated records have been restored and preserved by the Harris County District Clerk's Office. Those efforts have been honored with a 2004 Good Brick Award from the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance.

What Can I do to Help Save Harris County’s History?

The Harris County District Clerk’s Office has teamed with the Houston Bar Foundation to raise the funds needed to continue restoring and preserving Harris County’s past. The Houston Bar Foundation is accepting tax-deductible donations to preserve records. We do not suggest an amount for your donation as any amount is greatly helpful and appreciated.

Checks can be made payable to: Houston Bar Foundation Records Preservation and mailed to P.O. Box 4651, Houston, TX 77210. For a contribution form to include with your check, please click here.

In addition to preserving case files, bound volumes such as criminal case indexes, minute books, fee docket books and accounting books from as early as the Republic of Texas days are being saved. Costs for preserving these invaluable historical documents range from $10 for a file to as much as $2,500 for a civil index book. Donors who contribute an amount necessary to preserve one entire book may, if they wish, be recognized on the spine or outside cover of the book. Standard wording for such recognition will be, “In memory of _________,” “Graciously donated by ________,” etc. Other wording desired by the donor will be taken into consideration.

The process for preservation requires experts trained in handling historical documents, as the documents must be handled with extreme care. They are unfolded, pacified, then encapsulated in special Mylar plastic sheets to protect them from further damage caused by exposure to air and moisture. The process being used will preserve these records for up to 300 years and prevent further deterioration of our historical records.

Services Available in the Historical Document Room

  • Public viewing of original documents
  • Requested copies for $1.00 per page

Historical Documents Available Online

As a public service, the documents that are made available over the Web are provided at no charge. Please note, while the clarity of some of the documents is exceptional, the quality of others is poor. This is directly related to the quality of the original document as well as the penmanship of the scribe in some instances. Click below to begin viewing these priceless historical documents.
 

View Online

Historical Case Of The Month

The Honorable Judge Mark Davidson has been instrumental in the development of the Harris County District Court Historical Document Project. An avid legal history buff, Judge Davidson continues to write and serve as a special advisor to the ongoing Case Of the Month articles.

The Case Of The Libeled Football Executive

September brings us football, which is the favorite spectator sport of many Americans. Many of us remember the Oilers, Houston’s first team in the National Football League (NFL). However, few people remember or even knew that the Oilers were party to litigation a number of times. This month’s article reports on the time the Oilers were sued by Assistant General Manager Tom Williams for a slander allegedly committed by their General Manager.

Williams was one of the first African American executives in the National Football League. Oilers owner K. S. ‘Bud’ Adams is said to have hired him to help find and recruit free agent players for the team that played in the football programs of Historically Black Colleges (HBCs). By all accounts, Williams was a dynamic and hard-working coach. He personally took on the task of training Oilers draftee Earl Campbell into playing shape, helping him to become an NFL Hall of Fame member.

Williams apparently had a falling out with some of the other members of the Oilers chain of command. It could be that Williams was getting – or claiming – excessive credit for the spectacular success of The Tyler Rose, which was Campbell’s nickname.

Ladd Herzeg was the Oilers General Manager and Adrian Burk, a former NFL quarterback, was the team’s General Counsel. Neither of them had a lot of respect for Williams. At some point in 1978, Williams was fired. The grounds for the termination were puzzling. It was claimed they had said that Williams had taken a film projector to his home and was driving a 1977 Chevrolet El Camino leased for him by the team for non-business trips.

Williams hired Houston attorney Turner Pope to represent him. His contract with the Oilers had a clause requiring arbitration before, of all people, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Not surprisingly, Rozelle ruled for the Oilers. Pope then filed a lawsuit claiming that Herzeg and Burk had slandered Williams by accusing him of various acts of dishonesty and incompetence. No racial discrimination or animus was claimed. The Oilers hired the Fulbright & Jaworski law firm, and two very capable attorneys were assigned to the case – Frank Jones and Simeon Lake III.

The file reflects that the Oilers sought to have the case dismissed because Rozelle’s ruling meant that Williams was not entitled to anything from the Oilers. The reply said that Rozelle ruled the Oilers had not breached their contract with Williams, but did not and had not been asked to determine if Williams had been slandered by a member of the teams management.

Judge Frank O. White, of the 295th District Court, denied the motion to dismiss and ordered that a trial be held. Shortly thereafter, an agreed nonsuit was filed, indicating that a settlement had been reached between the parties.

Over the years, Herzeg apparently had other issues that took him to court. Between throwing punches at Chronicle Sports Columnist Fran Blinebury and a paternity suit that caused him to submit his resignation to Bud Adams, Herzeg was no stranger to controversy.

The extent to which Herzeg was involved in the firing of legendary coach O. A. ‘Bum’ Phillips is unknown and, today, is probably unknowable. When the Oilers abandoned Houston to move to Nashville, they broke the hearts of many, many fans. However, almost certainly, Tom Williams was not one of them.

Click here to view the historic case documents for The Case Of The Libeled Football Executive