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Roy Bean

Bean, Roy, c.1825–1903, legendary American frontier judge, b. Mason co., Ky. He left Kentucky in 1847 to seek his fortune in California. Soon, however, he was managing a trading post in Chihuahua, Mexico. In 1849 he was chased back into U.S. territory for cattle rustling. During the Civil War, Roy Bean aided the Confederate cause by joining a band of lawless irregulars. After the war he followed the construction camps of the Southern Pacific RR as a saloonkeeper and gambler. In 1882, Bean settled at the Texas camp of Vinegaroon, had it renamed Langtry (for the English actress Lillie Langtry), named himself justice of the peace (to which he added the title "the law west of the Pecos"), and set up court in his saloon, the Jersey Lily. He there began to dispense justice with the aid of one law book and a six-shooter. As a judge, Bean rendered arbitrary and unorthodox decisions, usually tempered with wit and common sense.

See biographies by C. L. Sonnichsen (1943, repr. 1953) and E. Lloyd (rev. ed. 1967).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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