Judge Jerry Lee Winder

Entered office: January 01, 1929 | Left office: January 01, 1935
Date of birth: April 4, 1875 in Carthage, Panola County, Texas
Date of death: February 3, 1960 in Morton, Cochran County, Texas
Place of burial: Morton Memorial Cemetery, Morton, Cochran County, Texas

J. L. (Jerry Lee) Winder was born April 4, 1875 at Carthage, Texas. He was the second child of the C. F. Winders, who had come to this country from Germany. He had three brothers and three sisters. He attended school at Pine Flat and also at Pleasant Hill, Texas. He went on to college at the University of Nacogdoches. After his education was completed, he returned home to teach school. His first position as a teacher was Alazan School. He then taught at Pine Flat and finally at Pleasant Hill.

Winder’s health began to fail about the age of 48 and a couple of his children were also ill due to the damp East Texas climate, so in 1922 he came to Lubbock looking for a place to settle and open a mercantile store. He found such a spot just east of the Texas Tech campus on what is now University Avenue between Broadway and Main. He placed $1000 in escrow and was to close the deal the next day, however, that night at the Merrel Hotel in Lubbock, Winder met Morton J. Smith. Smith told Winder about a location 60 miles west of Lubbock that would one day be the center of Eastern New Mexico and the Texas plains area. Winder travelled with Smith to the spot that would be the future site of Morton, Texas. After looking the area over, Winder bought a building, the first building in Morton, and moved in to the back of it, operating his mercantile business out of the front. This building still stands on the west corner of the square and is currently owned by Cochran County and serves as an extension of the Cochran County Clerk records. The building served many important roles over the years, including acting as the first courthouse and the first post office in Cochran County. The building was designated as a historic place by the Cochran County Historic Commission and the Cochran County Commissioners and a plaque was erected on June 27, 2015.

In January 1923, Winder moved his family to what is now known as Morton, Texas. His wife, Mary Neoma (Harvey) Winder received the charter to become the first postmistress in the first post office in 1924.

In 1928 J. L. Winder was asked to seek the office of county judge. After much deliberation (and a little persuasion from friend), Winder decided to run for office and was elected county judge, taking office on January 1, 1929, becoming the first man in the history of Cochran County to serve three consecutive terms as county judge. During his time in office he saw the first hard-surfaced road in the county built, connecting the towns of Morton and Whiteface.

After his service as county judge, Winder sold insurance and served as Justice of the Peace Precinct 1.

Source: Texas Sesquicentennial Texas’ Last Frontier Cochran County 1836-1986 Volume 1. Copyright Cochran County Historical Commission written by Dorothy Barker circa 1985 adapted by Mary Helen McKnight 2016
Image courtesy Texas’ Last Frontier Historical Museum

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