Sunday, November 30, 2014

DeValson Sellers Purl (1897-1962)

DeValson S. Purl, from the July 18, 1940 Robstown Recorder.

    A two-term district attorney in Texas, DeValson Sellers Purl was a candidate for District Court judge of Texas' 29th district in 1940. In addition to his political and judicial doings, Purl served with distinction in both World Wars and took part in the Nuremberg trials, where he served as an officer of the court.
  The youngest of ten children born to Georgetown, Texas sheriff Henry C. Purl and his wife, Mattie, DeValson S. Purl was born in Georgetown on December 29, 1897.  At the beginning of American involvement in World War I Purl enlisted for service in the U.S. Army, serving as a private in the 132nd Field Artillery regiment through the entirety of his service.
   Honorably discharged from service in 1919, Purl turned his attention to the study of law, and after being admitted to the state bar in 1925 removed to Corpus Christi, Texas. He would later become a member of a local law firm, Briggs, Lowe, and Purl. In November 1930 Purl was elected to the first of two terms as District Attorney for the counties of Nueces, Cameron, Kenedy, Kleberg and Willacy, and during his two terms (1931-1934) was recorded as using "vigorous prosecution" when it came to cases. Purl married sometime in the early 1930s to Corpus Christi native Bessie Martin, to whom he was wed for over thirty years. The couple is recorded as having been childless through the entirety of their marriage.
  Several years after leaving the office of District Attorney DeValson Purl reentered political life, announcing his candidacy for District Judge of the 28th District Court of Texas in July 1940. He had previously served as a special judge for Texas' 117th district court and was opposed for office by incumbent judge Willam Broadnax Hopkins (1866-1952). Purl faced an uphill battle during the campaign, as his opponent had served as judge of the 28th district since 1906. Despite his opponent's lengthy tenure on the bench, Purl's campaign notice in the Robstown Record urged potential voters to consider his "enviable record as district attorney",  as well as his being:
"Young enough and vigorous enough to accomplish a speedier, yet careful handling of the many cases on file and pledges his efforts to that end, his supporters say. He solicits the support of every citizen interested in clearing up the congestion now existing on the dockets."
Purl's campaign announcement from the Robstown Record, July 18, 1940.

    Despite glowing press like the announcement shown above, it was experience that won out, with incumbent Judge William Hopkins defeating Purl on election day. Hopkins would serve on the bench until his retirement in 1944, and at the time of his retirement had served as a judge for 52 years, the longest tenure on the Texas bench up to that time.
  Following his defeat, Purl returned to practicing law and at the dawn of World War II reentered the Army as a Major. After the war's conclusion, he served as an "officer of the court" at the Nazi war crimes trial held at Nuremberg. I would like to report more on Purl's service during this trial, but unfortunately little could be found. His death notice in the 1963 Texas Bar journal mentions his being a "prosecutor" at the trial, but this remains uncertain.
   After returning home from service Purl began a short affiliation with the U.S. Army Medical Center in Maryland, and later resided in Arizona, where he was employed as an "investigator of U.S. Government contracts with private companies", headquartered at the Institute of Solar Energy in Phoenix. Purl retired from the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1956 and died in Scottsdale, Arizona on December 26, 1962, three days short of his 67th birthday. He was survived by his wife Betty and his remains were later moved to Washington, D.C. for burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

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