Liberty County History

An occasional gathering place for articles, documents, photographs, records and other ephemera dealing with the history of Liberty County, Texas.

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Kevin Ladd is director of the Wallisville Heritage Park at Wallisville, Chambers County, TX and lives in Hardin, TX. He is chairman of the Liberty County Historical Commission and writes for "Texas Illustrated," a monthly publication of the Liberty Gazette newspaper, which is devoted to local history and folklore.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Judge J. C. Zbranek (1930-2006)

Jaromir Charles Zbranek was born on March 25, 1930 in Crosby, Harris County, Texas, the second of three sons to be born to Marie and Ladislav Leopold Zbranek, Sr.,both immigrants to the United States from what istoday the Czech Republic. As a young boy, he and hisfamily [including brothers Ladislav Jr. and Marion]moved to eastern Liberty County, where they settled in a log house a short distance south of Daisetta. He started first grade in the Hull-Daisetta school system, and graduated from high school there in 1947. After working a short while, he attended the University of Texas at Austin, earning a Bachelor of Arts Degree there in 1952. While at the University, he was a member of the Czech Club, MICA President,Pre-Law Society, N.R.O.T.C., Pi Sigma Alpha, Friars,and Silver Spurs. He was also Student Editor of the Law Review, a member of the Rusk Literary Society, the Tejas Club, and the Discipline Committee, as well as Chairman of the Student Assembly. Honors received while at the University include the Jesse Jones Naval Scholarship, McKie Law Scholarship, and the Mike Flynn Award as Most Outstanding Student. It should be noted that he worked any number of jobs in and around campus in order to finance his education.

"Zeke" Zbranek served in the U.S. Navy as a Lieutenant from 1952 to 1954, serving most of that time aboard the USS Carmick during the Korean Conflict. After returning home, he earned the Democratic nomination for the Texas House of Representatives in 1954 and represented Liberty and Chambers counties for the next six years. He was defeated in a 1960 Democratic Primary race against State Senator Mrs. Neville Colson and thus ended his political career for awhile. While serving in the Legislature, he attended and graduated from the University of Texas Law School. He began his private law practice in Liberty in 1956, first in partnership with Thomas A. Wheat, but later opening his own practice in 1959. Zbranek purchased thehistoric Liberty County Bank building on the northside of the Courthouse Square, and painted the building in the burnt orange and white colors of his beloved University of Texas. He practiced law for the next 30 years, also serving as Liberty County Democratic Party chairman, and as a member of the Lamar University Board of Regents. In 1990, Mr.Zbranek was elected as 75th State District Judge in Liberty, serving on the bench until his retirement in 2002. He was an avid reader, enjoyed history and his family. He was honored by a resolution of the Texas Legislature in 2001 during "Liberty County Day in Austin," which recognized his long and enviable recordof distinguished public service.

He was married in 1958 in Liberty to Miss Nelda Forshee, daughter of Stanley Jennings and Hazel (Edwards) Forshee. They had three children: Felicia, Zeb and Zack Zbranek. Judge Zbranek died on August 4,2006 at his home in Devers, Liberty County, Texas after a brief battle with cancer. His funeral service was held on Monday, August 7, 2006 at Liberty's First Baptist Church. He was buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, a few feet from the future resting place of legendary Longhorn Coach Darrell K. Royal -- what a fitting location for a Longhorn fan such as Judge Zbranek.

Although this brief sketch of the late Judge J. C. Zbranek provides the basic outlines of an extraordinary life, it says nothing about the respect he built through those seven and a half decades, the number of young men and women who followed him in the practice of law, and the joy he lent us all by passing this way.

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