Last modified on January 25, 2022, at 02:23

Joe Rollins

Joseph Guy Rollins Jr.

(Texas attorney involved in Bush International Airport suit)

Born April 21, 1918
Merit, Hunt County, Texas
Died November 2, 1918 (aged 90)
Boulder, Colorado

Alma mater:
Texas A&M University
Southern Methodist University Law School

Spouse Sarah Finch "Skippy" Rollins

Guy Rollins
Sally R. Sodal
Edna Gary Thomas

  • (1) A prominent Texas lawyer, Rollins handled major cases for Attorney General Will Wilson, for the City of Houston, where he resided for more than four decades, and in private practice.
  • (2) During World War II, Rollins was the commanding officer of the USS Curlew United States Navy in the Caribbean Sea charged with defense of the Panama Canal.
  • (3) Rollins represented the Houston Police Department in numerous suits and prevailed in each legal encounter on behalf of individual police officers.
  • (4) Rollins was instrumental in defeating a lawsuit regarding cost overruns and delays in the construction of George Bush International Airport in Houston.

Military Service
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1941-1945
Rank Commanding officer of the U.S.S. Curlew

Joseph Guy Rollins, Jr., known as Joe Rollins (April 21, 1918 – November 2, 2008), was a prominent Texas attorney and civic leader, perhaps best known for his successful fight against a lawsuit [1] regarding cost overruns and construction delays in the establishment of what later was renamed as George Bush International Airport in Houston.

The plaintiff, R. F. Ball Construction Company of San Antonio, protested that Houston municipal officials, the defendants represented by then assistant city attorney Rollins, made four hundred design changes for the airport terminals and caused the firm and its subcontractors serious losses. The airport opened in June 1969, more than two years behind schedule. Ball Construction maintained that the city-mandated changes increased construction costs from approximately $17 million to $28 million. The trial court ruled in favor of Ball Construction, but the judge reduced the requested $8 million in damages to $5.1 million. The 14th Court of Appeals unanimously reversed that ruling, and the Texas Supreme Court concurred with the appeals court.[2]


Rollins was born to Joseph Guy Rollins and the former Ethel Stratton in Merit in Hunt County northeast of Dallas at the home of his maternal grandparents, Robert B. Stratton and the former Julia Hardy. Rollins graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio. In 1938, he completed his bachelor's degree at Texas A&M University in College Station. He thereafter earned his law degree in 1941 from Southern Methodist University near Dallas.[2]

During World War II, Rollins enlisted in the United States Navy even before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. From 1943 to 1945, he was the commanding officer of the U.S.S. Curlew AM 69. In October 1943, he directed a group of minesweepers that successfully cleared the Caribbean entrance to the Panama Canal of German-laid naval mines which had shut down the waterway for two critical weeks of the war. Rollins received a Letter of Commendation for his "fine seamanship under difficult conditions". After the war, Rollins was active in the Naval Reserve for eleven years and was commanding officer of the Reserve Electronics Unit in Sherman in north Texas.[3]

Legal career

Rollins initially practiced law in Denison, Sherman, and then Whitesboro in Grayson County. He relocated to the capital city of Austin in 1957 to join the staff of the Texas Attorney General William Reid "Will" Wilson, Sr. Assigned to the highway division, Rollins tried numerous eminent domain cases in order to acquire right-of-way for the construction of the Eisenhower interstate highway system in Texas.[3] He contributed to the legal approach to eminent domain in a talk March 1959 "The Proper Measure of Damages in a Total Taking," and in May 1964 "Selection of the Proper Appraisal Approach in Combination Suits."[4]

In 1961, he moved to Houston to join the staff of the city attorney where he became senior assistant attorney and chief of the litigation section. He was proud that he "made law" in the City of Houston v. Harris County Eastex Oaks Water and Sewer District. [5] He represented Houston police in numerous suits, many of a civil rights nature, against the department. Not once did Rollins lose a case representing a police officer. The officers accordingly awarded him a plaque of appreciation for his work.[3]

On retirement from the city of Houston in 1979, Rollins joined the law firm of Olson & Olson, from which he retired in 1997. He became a volunteer instructor in the English-as-a-second-language program of Memorial Assistance Ministries. He also tutored in the bilingual education program at Spring Branch Elementary School. Rollins was fluent in Spanish, and passable in French, and German. He was a scholar of languages and history, particularly the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, and Europe.[2]

Later years

In 2004, Rollins and his wife, the former Sarah Finch, a Dallas native known as Skippy Rollins, moved to Boulder, Colorado. He died there four years later. In addition to his wife of sixty-four years, he was survived by a son, Guy Rollins (born March 15, 1946) of Wimberley in Hays County near San Marcos, Texas; two daughters, Sally Sodal of Boulder and Edna Gary Thomas of Yantis, Texas. A memorial service was held on November 15 at his church of membership, St. Paul's United Methodist Church, in Boulder. While in Houston, he had been active in the Chapelwood United Methodist Church.[3]

Rollins was affiliated with some twenty organizations, the American, Gulf Coast, and Boulder Mensa International societies,[6] Masonic lodge, Knights of Pythias, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Military Order of the Stars and Bars (descendants of commissioned officers of the Confederacy, Sons of the American Revolution, Society of Descendants of Washington's Army at Valley Forge, the Magna Carta Barons, Colonial Order of the Crown, Lambda Chi Alpha social fraternity, Delta Theta Phi law fraternity, the Houston and Texas bar associations, and in later years was agent for the TAMU Class of 1938.[3]

Rollins wrote the book, Aggies, Y'All Caught That Dam'Ol' Rat Yet?, a humorous account of his experiences as a freshman at Texas A&M.[2]


1. City of Houston v. R.F. Ball Construction Co., 570 SW 2d 75. (Tex. App.-Houston [14th District] 1978.
2. "Lawyer, WW II Navy veteran and volunteer tutor, Joe Rollins was fluent in three languages," Houston Chronicle on-line, November 17, 2008.
3. "Obituary: Joseph Guy "Joe" Rollins, Boulder (Colorado) Daily Camera.
4. Proceedings of the Institute on Eminent Domain.
5. Court of Civil Appeals of Texas, Houston (1st District) February 20, 1969.
6. Letter from American Mensa Selection Agency, December 15, 1974.