Moxley Featherston

Federal Judge, BA 1935

Judge C. Moxley Featherston was born in Jayton, Texas, in 1914. When he was two years old, he and his family took a 90-mile trek by horse-drawn wagon, moving to the rural farm town of Petersburg. At Petersburg, a small farm was purchased where the family of seven lived in a four-room house with no running water.

When Moxley was 14, his father was killed by a sudden lightening storm while plowing a field on a horse-drawn iron plow. Moxley’s mother, now a widow with five children, was forced to depend on those children for additional financial support.

Moxley was influenced at an early age by the high Christian morals of his parents and other family members. He offered himself for church membership at the age of eight and was baptized in an open earth tank.

He graduated from Petersburg High School in 1931, and in 1932, with a limited scholarship and the financial help of his oldest brother, Moxley began his freshman year at Simmons University. He also worked in the Simmons library, earning 20 cents per hour. It wasn’t unusual to “hop” a freight train from Abilene to Lubbock for a periodic visit home.

In 1935, Moxley graduated magna cum laude from Hardin-Simmons. While a student at HSU, Moxley was active in many organizations, including the History Club, Pre-Law Club, Library Club, Debating, sophomore edition of the Brand, Alpha Chi, and was a four-year Pi Kappa Delta member. In 1935, when Simmons University became Hardin-Simmons University, Moxley was elected by his peers to be the first president of the student body of the newly named school.

Moxley was known as good looking and charming, and more than one of his fellow students wrote in his yearbook that he was the friendliest student on campus.

At the beginning of his senior year, he met his future wife, Rose Ross, who was a freshman at HSU. The couple was married in December 1938, and had three children, RoseAnn, Neal, and Ross.

Moxley began George Washington University Law School as a night student, working during the day for the federal government. In 1939, Moxley received his Doctor of Law degree from GWU Law School, where he served on the Law Review staff and was elected to membership in the Order of the Coif. He was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar in 1939, and the State Bar of Texas in 1940. At this time he engaged in the general practice of law in Hereford, Texas, soon followed by service as Attorney of the Department of Agriculture, handling litigation relating to the farm loan program.

From 1942 to 1945, he was an attorney for the War Relocation Authority, and in 1945, began service with the Tax Division of the Department of Justice, which was interrupted for the period 1949 to 1951 by his appointment as Assistant General Counsel for the Institute of Inter-American Affairs.

Returning to the Justice Department, he served as Chief of the Review Section from 1958 until 1964 when he became Assistant for Civil Trials. In this capacity, he had responsibility for general supervision of all tax refund trial work in the U.S. District Courts of the Court of Claims.

His distinguished career was rewarded in 1967 when he was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson as Judge of the United States Tax Court. He served in that capacity for 22 years, and was elected by his peers to serve as chief judge for four years. During this period, he presided at trials in more than 50 U.S. cities and authored more than 1,000 written opinions. Described as inscrutable and patient, Judge Featherston was elected by his colleagues as chief judge in 1977. It was a status he held until 1981. Three years later, he became a senior judge.

Moxley received a Certificate of Award in appreciation an recognition of meritorious service on behalf of the Department of Justice in 1956. He was acknowledged for demonstrating the highest order of legal and administrative ability, coupled with patience, modesty and good judgment, in his function of disposing of most important and difficult out of court settlements. In 1972, Moxley was honored as a Distinguished Alumni of Hardin-Simmons.

Upon retiring, Rose and Moxley moved to El Paso, Texas. They soon joined a church and Moxley, true to his work ethic, qualified to be a law arbitrator for the City of El Paso, a community service position that offered no pay, but a chance to assist others.

Moxley died in April of 1998, and Rose died four years later. According to their wishes, their bodies were donated to the medical school at Texas Tech in Lubbock.

He has been described as a modest Christian gentleman, a man of culture, refinement, scholarship, and unusual ability, and a man astute in the art of bringing opposing views to an agreeable decision. With faith and determination, Moxley overcame difficulty and poverty to engage in an interesting and successful career.

It is the high honor of Hardin-Simmons University to recognize one of her own and to formally induct C. Moxley Featherston into the HSU Hall of Leaders. We want to thank Judge Featherston’s family for attending today in his honor.