Roy Bean

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Phantly Roy Bean, Jr.

(Justice of the peace, coroner,
notary public, and saloon-keeper:
"The Law West of the Pecos")

Roy Bean of TX.jpg

Born c. 1825
Mason County, Kentucky, USA
Died March 16, 1903
(aged c. 77)
Langtry, Texas
Spouse Maria Anastacia "Virginia" Chavez Bean (married 1866-1881, divorced) (remarried to Manuel Charles)[1]

Four children:
Roy Bean, III
Laura Bean
Zulema Bean
Sam Bean
Phantly, Sr., and Anna Henderson Gore Bean

Phantly Roy Bean, Jr. (c. 1825 – March 16, 1903), was a saloon-keeper, justice of the peace, coroner, and notary public known as the "Law West of the Pecos" River in Langtry in Val Verde County in southwestern Texas.

Legend holds that Bean held court in his saloon along the Rio Grande on a desolate stretch of the Chihuahuan Desert of southwest Texas. After his death, Western films and books cast him as a "hanging judge," but he sentenced only two men to hang, one of whom escaped.[2]

Bean was born c. 1825 in Mason County in northern Kentucky, the youngest of five children of Phantly Bean, Sr. (1804-1844) and the former Anna Henderson Gore. The Beans were particularly poor and at age sixteen Bean left home and took a flatboat to New Orleans, Louisiana. After getting into trouble, he fled to San Antonio, Texas.[3] He hauled freight to Santa Fe, New Mexico (then New Mexico Territory) and on to Chihuahua, Mexico. In 1848, ,the two fled to Sonora, Mexico. By the spring of 1849, Roy Bean had moved to San Diego, California, to live with his brother, Joshua Bean (c. 1818-1852), who was elected in 1850 as the first mayor of San Diego.[4] In 1848, the two fled west to Sonora, Mexico.

After his time in California, Bean was for some sixteen years a prosperous businessman living in San Antonio, Texas. In 1882, he moved to southwest Texas, where he built the Jersey Lilly saloon in his community of Langtry. Though he never met the theater actress Emilie Charlotte "Lillie" Langtry (1853-1929), he developed a fascination with her and closely followed her career.[2]

The community is not named for Lillie but for George Langtry, an engineer and foreman building the railroad in the Southwest, in which capacity he supervised immigrant Chinese work crews.

Before he founded Langtry, Bean procured appointment as as justice of the peace and notary public. Though he knew little about the law, area residents mostly accepted his common-sense verdicts in the sparsely populated country of West Texas. Often humorous or bizarre in his ruling, Judge Bean once fined a dead man $40 (the amount found on the body) for carrying a concealed weapon. He threatened an attorney with hanging for using profanity when he merely mentioned habeas corpus. As the century ended, Bean acqired a national reputation because of his curmudgeonly rulings. Railroad travelers made a point of stopping to visit the old saloon, where a sign named Bean as the “Law West of the Pecos.”[2]

Bean fell ill during a visit to San Antonio, returned to Langtry, and died at the age of c. seventy-seven. He is interred by his younger son, Sam (1874-1907), on the grounds of the Whitehead Memorial Museum, which opened in 1962 in Del Rio, the seat of government for Val Verde County. Sam Bean, also a saloon-keeper, was stabbed to death in Del Rio by a man with whom he had feuded.[5]

Ten months after Bean's death, Lillie made a clebrated visit to Langtry.[2]

Bean is the subject of the syndicated television series, Judge Roy Bean, with Edgar Buchanan (1903-1979) in the starring role. The single-season series aired from 1955 to 1956.[6] In 1972, Paul Newman played Bean in the film, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean.[7]

A Texas tourist bureau station is located in front of the Jersey Lillie in Langry. Some forty thousand visit the site each year.


  1. Texas History Headlines - 1866 - Roy Bean and Virginia Chavez wed.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 [Judge Roy Bean dies - HISTORY]
  3. Paula Allen (March 29, 2013), History: Scoundrel Bean, Bride wed in San Fernando Cathedral," San Antonio Express-News, accessed January 17, 2018.
  4. Dan L.Thrapp, "Roy Bean," The Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography,(Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press), p. 80. ISBN 978-0-8032-9418-9..
  5. [Sam Bean (1874-1907) - Find A Grave Memorial, accessed March 17, 2021.]
  6. Judge Roy Bean (TV Series 1955– ) - IMDb, accessed March 16, 2021.
  7. The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean - Bing