Jesse P. Luton, Jr., passed away at his home in Houston, Texas, on the 6th of February 2013, after a long illness.
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Born in Sulphur Springs, Texas, in 1921, Jesse graduated from Marfa High School in 1939. In 1942 he joined the U.S. Corps of Engineers, and during part of World War II he was stationed in the Aleutian Islands of Attu and Adak. Upon leaving the Corps in 1945 as a captain, he finished his LLB degree in 1948 from The University of Texas at Austin, where his father, the Rev. Jesse P. Luton, had received the same degree in 1904.
From 1948 to 1953 he served as Assistant Attorney General of Texas under Price Daniel, who later became a U.S. Senator and Governor. Price Daniel, Chrys Dougherty, and Mr. Luton were the principal attorneys representing the State of Texas in the historic Tidelands case (United States v. Texas).
Mr. Luton left the Attorney General's office in 1953 to join the legal department of the Gulf Oil Corporation. However, he was asked by Governor Allan Shivers to represent the State of Texas as the sole attorney in arguing the constitutionality of the Submerged Lands Act (associated with the Tidelands case) before the U.S. Supreme Court. As a result of the ruling, Texas has been in the unique position of having the right to income from offshore minerals, which substantially aids the state's educational system.
Mr. Luton had a long career with Gulf Oil, from 1953 to 1983, rising through the legal department to the position of General Counsel. At Gulf he was instrumental in building a widely respected and substantial corporate law department. He hired and mentored excellent attorneys, many of whom graduated from the top of their class. After retiring from Gulf, he became a partner in the Austin-based law firm, Scott, Douglass & Luton, L.L.P., expanding their offices to Houston. In 1994 he retired from active practice, leaving behind a revered legacy. While in retirement, he continued to fund endowments for minority law students.
Mr. Luton was an impressive orator: In the courtroom he spoke with eloquence and great skill. In his private life he was a fascinating storyteller: His topics
ranged from his work as a young man on his sister's West Texas ranch to the cases he argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.
His wry smile-particularly wry when directed toward his wife Janice of 67 years-will be missed.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Luton is survived by his four children, Jan Shaw of Reno, Nevada, and Janie Dennis, John Luton, and Joel Luton, all of Austin, Texas. He was also blessed with five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. The family wishes to thank Elodia Sifuentes for her special care of Mr. Luton.
Arrangements in Austin for a memorial service are pending.
In lieu of customary remembrances, contributions in Mr. Luton's name may be directed to the Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758517, Topeka, KS, 66675 or (www.woundedwarriorproject.org).
Published in Houston Chronicle on Feb. 13, 2013