The long storied history of Duval County reads like a chapter or two of the Democratic party history book. But it was not always that way. In fact the first county judge, James O. Luby, was known as Mr. Republican of South Texas.
Evan Anders in Boss Rule in South Texas wrote that Luby did not become a Republican until 1884 when President Chester A. Arthur named him Customs Collector for the Port of Brownsville, but events suggest otherwise. But before I go there, let me go to the beginning.
Luby was born in London on June 14, 1846. After his father Daniel died, his mother Kate moved with the eight-year-old Luby to New York. He attended the public schools in New York and worked as an “office boy” for a number of establishments. While still in New York he heard many of the “Wide Awakes,” a campaign organization of the Republican Party during the presidential election of 1860.
The next year Luby left New York for Havana to join his mother and her new husband A.R. Feuille. Later that year he went to New Orleans where he joined the Confederate Army at the tender age of 17. Blame youthful indiscretion or being caught up in war fever in New Orleans, but there was no obvious reason why Luby would have joined the Confederacy since he had no ties to the South up until then. He fought in the Civil War, was taken prisoner and then released. After his release he traveled to Brownsville and rejoined the Rebel Army.
After the cessation of the war he moved first to Banquete and then to San Diego and took a position as a clerk with N.G. Collins. Even though he had served in the Confederacy, Luby was appointed San Diego postmaster in 1867. Since the Republicans were still in control in Washington and the Republican Reconstructionists were in charge of Texas, it would be highly unlikely that they would have appointed someone who was not sympathetic to their cause. Perhaps Collins had some say in the appointment.
In 1871, Luby became Justice of the Peace for Nueces County Precinct #3 and served until 1876. He was also a merchant in San Diego and married Mary Hoffman in 1871. They went on to have five children.
All during his service as Justice of the Peace Luby faced issues of Indian and bandit raids. He never travelled unarmed. As Justice of the Peace in 1872, Luby reported the Kickapoos made three raids near San Diego. In 1873, he sent assistance to Piedras Pintas Rancho to keep it from being burned by Mexican outlaws under the command of the notorious bandit Alberto Garza.
In 1876, Luby, Collins and others petitioned the Nueces County Commissioners Court to call for an election to organize Duval County, which had been created by the Texas Legislature in 1858. After denying them three times, the court finally called for an election and James O. Luby, who had just turned 30, was elected the first county Judge for Duval County.
To be continued…
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