Darrell Bernard Hester was born February 9, 1925 to James L. Hester and the former Lucille Tullos in Frost, Navarro County, Texas. James Hester was an auto mechanic but died at the age of 44 while working in Austin. Mrs. Lucille Hester survived her husband James Hester many years.
Darrell Hester graduated from Corsicana High School in 1942. World War II was already underway. The future jurist was one of four featured speakers at his high school graduation in a patriotic ceremony, the topic of the presentation being described as “a patriotic tribute to those able to discern between propaganda and free speech.” The first speaker spoke in support of free speech. Hester spoke illustrating the influential voice of rumor by stating hypothetical rumors that could affect support for the war effort. The remainder of the dialogue warned about the importance of separating rumor from truth. Hester was named as one of twenty-three honor graduates, having maintained a grade average of 90 or better throughout their high school years.
Hester enlisted in the United States Navy following his high school graduation, serving as a communications officer on destroyers in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters during World War II. He earned the rank of Lieutenant. After the war, Hester attended college on the G. I. Bill, earning a law degree from University of Texas in Austin in 1949. He married the former Nell Brevard Sanders in 1948. The couple had met six years earlier on the campus of University of Texas and remained married for 57 years.
He began his career in law by serving for many years in a firm with attorney Abel Toscano in Harlingen. Hester was elected judge of the 197th District Court in 1971, upon the creation of the district, and served in that capacity until he retired from the bench in 1998. Thereafter he served as Administrative Judge of the 5th Region from 1999 until his death in 2005.
His name is often linked to the trial of George Berham Parr in which he served as presiding judge. Parr was known as the “Duke of Duval” and was on trial for income tax evasion and perjury. Other notable cases included the murder trial of Leonel Torres Herrera for the September 29, 1981 death of Department of Public Safety Officer David Irvine Rucker, the overturned 1988 murder conviction of Susie Mowbray for the shooting death of her husband, and cases involving alleged corruption among officials in Duval County. Another memorable cases were the trials of Paul and Sherry Wolf, accused of involvement in the July 16, 1982 deaths of her former husband and his fiancé in an ongoing custody/visitation dispute over a child.
Along the way, Hester acquired the nickname of “Hang ’em High Hester” for his support of punishment of criminals as a deterrent to future criminal activities. As a judge, Hester was known for being tough but compassionate, well read, fair minded, studious, prepared. He died at the age of 80 on December 18, 2005.
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