Born Robert Henderson Dougherty in Beeville, Texas, May 3, 1915, Chrys was the only surviving child of five siblings, the other four of whom died before he was born. He was the son of J. Chrys Dougherty and Mary Virginia Henderson Dougherty. His grandfather, Robert Dougherty, immigrated from Ireland and founded a boys’ school in South Texas. His Aunt Lida was the first woman superintendent of schools in Texas.
After his father died when he was 16, Chrys changed his name to that of his father. He began reading the Harvard Classics in order to educate himself. Then his uncle, James R. Dougherty, helped him attend the University of Texas and Harvard Law School, with the request that he pass on the gift of education to others, which he did through numerous gifts to individuals and institutions.
While at Harvard Law School, Chrys met another Texas transplant, Mary Ireland Graves (“Miggie”), a student at Vassar. They married in April 1942. During the War, Chrys served in the Counter-Intelligence Corps, and in France as an attorney in the Judge Advocate General Corps. There he added a love of the French language to the love of Spanish he’d grown up with as a child in South Texas. Years later, Chrys served as the Honorary French Consul of Texas.
Returning from the war, Chrys studied International Law at Harvard. In 1946 he co-founded the Graves, Dougherty law firm with his father-in-law Ireland Graves. He was involved in a number of important cases over the years, most notably the Tidelands case – a legal battle between the State of Texas and the federal government over rights to offshore oil. He served as President of the Texas State Bar Association in 1979-80.
Chrys had a strong belief in the rule of law as an alternative to violence. Accordingly, he served as state president of the United World Federalists in the late 1940s. He also had a strong belief in the importance of making legal services available to everyone, not just those privileged enough to be able to pay for them. He focused his attention on expanding legal services for the poor, urging lawyers to devote time to pro bono work. In recognition of these efforts, the State of Texas Bar Association established the J. Chrys Dougherty Legal Services Award in his honor. Texas Appleseed and Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas also have awards named for him.
Chrys retired from the practice of law in 1995, but not from service to the community. He was one of the founders of Texas Appleseed, which recruits lawyers to volunteer their skills and donate their resources for social and economic justice. He served on the board of The Austin Project, whose purpose is to strengthen families and improve education. He was active in the University Presbyterian Church.
Chrys frequently quoted the Bible verse: “From him to whom much is given, much will be required.”
Chrys never stopped learning. He read voraciously. His interests ranged widely, and he enjoyed reading about world religions, education, and other topics. He traveled extensively and was an avid photographer.
Chrys’ beloved Miggie died in July 1977. In 1978, he married Bea Ann Smith. After they divorced, he married Sarah Blair Randle in 1982. She died in 1997.
Chrys leaves behind his daughter, Molly and her husband Richard Pells; son, Chrys IV and his wife Mary Ann; two grandsons, John Ireland Dougherty and Mark Chrysostom Dougherty; and many dear relatives and friends.
The family would like to thank the staff at the Arbour at Westminster Manor for their loving care and Hospice Austin for making him comfortable at the end.
Chrys believed every person had something to teach him. He was always deeply grateful to others.
A memorial service was held at University Presbyterian church at 3:00 PM on Saturday, March 1. Gifts in Chrys’s honor may be made to Texas Appleseed, 1609 Shoal Creek Blvd, Austin TX 78701; The Austin Project, 5221 Ledesma Road, Austin TX 78721; or University Presbyterian Church, Campus Ministry Program, 2203 San Antonio St., Austin TX 78705.
Arrangements by Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home – (512) 452-8811. Obituary and guestbook available online at www.wcfish.com.