Thursday, February 8, 2018

Judge Roy Bean--"Law West of the Pecos"

By Celia Yeary


Judge Roy Bean, the self-appointed “Law West of the Pecos”, became a saloonkeeper and Justice of the Peace on the Rio Grande in a desolate stretch of the Chihuahua Desert of SW Texas. When the Texas Rangers weren’t around to stop him, he brazenly held court.

A few months ago, as I watched Late Night TV, a somewhat new movie came on about the famous Judge Roy Bean. I was interested, so I watched the introduction. Actor to play the Judge? ROBERT REDFORD as a young man. I couldn't quite see RR as the real Judge Roy Bean, but the story was put together rather well.


Roy Bean found himself in trouble most of his life from Texas to California. He killed, stole, cheated, swindled, and abused his wife.
Young women considered Bean handsome, and often competed for his attention. (See vintage photo and judge for yourself.) In San Diego, a Scotsman named Collins challenged Bean to a pistol shooting match on horseback. He allowed Bean to choose the target, and Roy Bean decided they would shoot at each other. Bean shot Collins in the arm. The sheriff arrested both men and charged them with attempted murder. During the two months in jail, Bean received many gifts of flowers, food, wine, and cigars from the ladies of San Diego. The last gift included knives encased in tamales. He used the knives to dig through the cell wall.   

In Southwest Texas by the Rio Grande, the small town of Langtry was established as a construction junction from east and west during the building of the Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railway. Two origins of the town’s name are under dispute. One claim says the town was named for a civil engineer named Langtry who directed a group of Chinese laborers in the railroad construction.
The other more popular and accepted claim is that Judge Roy Bean,
an eccentric, colorful character, insisted he named the town after his idol,
English actress Lillie Langtry, the “Jersey Lily.”

Today, a Texas Visitor’s Center sits next to the preserved
150-year-old-saloon  in Langtry, Texas.
The center is well maintained, with clean restrooms,
a snack area, landscaping, and a gift shop.
Celia Yeary...Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas


  1. Celia, I didn't know there was a visitor's center at Langtry. I don't suppose I'll ever make it there, but still nice to know.

  2. Interesting that despite the many women who threw themselves at the notorious Judge, it was the inaccessible Lillie who was his obsession. Ain't love grand!

  3. I've read about the Judge, but like so many of those notorious historical figures, always something more we can learn about them. Never saw that movie, but I agree, I was surprised the very handsome Robert Redford portrayed him!

  4. We've visited Langtry and the visitors center. Like you say, it's very nice. Wasn't there something about an illegal boxing match that took place there? I may be thinking about someplace else.

  5. Didn't Paul Newman also play Judge Roy Bean? Honestly, I didn't know he was a real person.
    I find it interesting that, in the old west, people often worked both sides of the law. I have a picture in my mind of Roy Bean lounging in his jail cell on his silken cushions enjoying his cigars and wine.
    All the best to you, Celia.

  6. The pecos is not the texas/mexico border.
    The rio grande is.
    The pecos flows into the rio grande.


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