American jurist (1825?-1903). The "Law West of the Pecos", Judge Roy Bean was very likely the most colorful judge in history.

Bean was born in Mason County, Kentucky but left home at the age of 15 to follow his older brothers west. After traveling to New Mexico, he moved south of the border and set up a trading post in Chihuahua, Mexico. After killing a man, Bean fled to California to take refuge with his brother Joshua Bean, who later became the first mayor of San Diego.

Roy was made a lieutenant in the state militia by his brother and got a job tending bar at a place called the Headquarters. He injured a man in a duel in 1852 and was arrested. He escaped, but his brother was killed a few months later after getting stuck on the pointy end of a romantic triangle. Roy moved back to New Mexico and worked as a bartender for his other brother, who was both a sheriff and a saloonkeeper, which seems like a nice racket.

After a few years slinging booze and smuggling guns during the Civil War, Roy married a Mexican teenager and moved to San Antonio. He supported his wife and five children by selling stolen firewood and watered-down milk.

In 1882, fleeing both the law and his wife, Bean moved to tiny Vinegaroon, Texas, to run a makeshift saloon for railroad workers. The desert heat apparently affected the minds of the local county commissioners, because they appointed Bean as the Justice of the Peace of Pecos County. Bean, not drunk enough to miss the obvious opportunity thrown at his feet, eagerly accepted the position and moved a few miles north to a tent city called Langtry. The town had been named for a railroad boss, but Bean liked the name because he was obsessed with a British actress named Lillie Langtry. He built a saloon which he named the Jersey Lilly -- Lillie Langtry's nickname. The Jersey Lilly pulled triple-duty -- Bean's saloon, his home, and his courthouse.

Bean's court was short on legal niceties and long on entertainment. Tradition states that Bean opened proceedings with "Hear ye! Hear ye! This honorable court's now in session! And if any galoot wants a snort afore we start, let him step up to the bar and name his pizen!" He kept a pet bear named Bruno chained in the yard. Bruno chugged bottles of beer and, when chained in the courtroom, helped sober up drunks before their cases came up.

Bean once delivered a sentence of not guilty upon a man accused of murdering a Chinese railroad worker, saying that he had read through his law books and "damned if I can find any law against killing a Chinaman."

Another time, Bean was called to investigate the death of a man who had fallen from a railroad bridge. He discovered $40 and a pistol in the dead man's pockets. Bean judged that the corpse had been unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon and fined him $40.

He shot to fame in 1898 after arranging a heavyweight championship prizefight -- an illegal event in most of the Western U.S. and in Mexico, but Bean arranged to hold it on a sandbar in the middle of the Rio Grande. The publicity fueled news stories and dime novels about Bean's exploits and adventures, all recounted and guaranteed to be truthful by Judge Bean himself. A judge wouldn't lie, would he?

Bean died in his sleep in 1903 after a drinking binge in Del Rio. Though he'd never met Lillie Langtry, they'd carried on regular correspondence over the years, and she is said to have sent him a pair of pistols as a gift. Ten months after his death, Lillie finally visited Bean's hometown to listen to townspeople tell stories about her biggest fan.

One of Judge Bean's wordiest sentences was delivered against Carlos Robles, who had been found guilty of cattle rustling. Robles spoke no English, so he couldn't really appreciate the tirade that followed: "Carlos Robles, you have been tried by twelve true and good men, not men of yore peers, but as high above you as heaven is of hell; and they've said you're guilty of rustlin' cattle. Time will pass and seasons will come and go. Spring with its wavin' green grass and heaps of sweet-smellin' flowers on every hill and in every dale. Then will come sultry summer, with her shimmerin' heat-waves on the baked horizon, and fall, with her yeller harvest moon and the hills growin' brown and golden under a sinkin' sun, and finally winter, with its bitin', whinin' wind, and all the land will be mantled with snow. But you won't be here to see any of 'em, Carlos Robles, not by a damn sight, because it's the order of this court that you be took to the nearest tree and hanged by the neck 'til you're dead, dead, dead, you olive-colored son of a billy goat!"

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