If the worth of a man can be measured by his service to the community, then James Mature would be considered a wealthy man by moral standards. Although he’s Justice of the Peace for Walker County Precinct 4, his humanitarian duties far exceed the gavel and black robe required for the duties of a judicial day. He is a volunteer who worked tirelessly in the food lines, helping the American Red Cross after Hurricane Ike wreaked havoc in our little town and so many others like it. He is the caring individual you saw, driving through neighborhoods, handing out hams for First Baptist Church of New Waverly during another lights-out disaster—a man who wanted to make a difference, and did.
While asking him a few questions for Postcards Magazine, one sees that Mature is a humble man, driven by the love of his family, the Bible, and his country (U.S. Army veteran). He points to the Bible on his desk and smiles: “That’s my favorite law book.”
I became judge in 2003, after the late Judge John Pasket died before his service was completed. I was a candidate for it and was appointed by the commissioners’ court. When it came time for election, I was elected in 2004 to fill the office.
Oh, there’s an old saying about judges being the gatekeeper—let’s just say the gatekeeper fell in love with the gate. (laughs) Plus, I loved it so much I ran again. I loved the responsibility of law and the ones who are supposed to uphold it.
Yes, it does. First of all, you have to remember that you’re a public servant, and your duties are 24-7 on the clock, but it needs to be done for the sake of the community. I do share weekends and holidays with three other judges on the duty roster, so we all share in our responsibilities at those times. On all other days, I can expect to get calls related from anything to domestic violence to drug offenses. And being a magistrate too, I go to the jail on Fridays and read the person their rights. Then I set bond so they can make bail and prepare to go to court. Every weekend, one of the four judges has to take care of those duties. During the week—I have the whole precinct, but it’s been a very enlightening job—the only job I’ve had that I didn’t mind coming to work. I’m very people-oriented, and I love doing my part for this community.
Having to pronounce (deceased) fatalities and suicides. Having to pronounce a small child after a drowning is probably the hardest. Or some teenager killed in a vehicle accident. That never gets easy. But also, when there is suspicion related to a death, I will get the proper people involved to find the truth behind it. I rely on the expertise of the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office on murders and suicides—I don’t care what it costs—I don’t want a killer running free.
I didn’t let it go to my head; some have been known to do that, like some of those TV judges. It’s known in our trade as ‘Black Robe Fever.’ (smiles slyly) Some of those judges wouldn’t last five minutes in the real world. My court handles about 85% of Class C (criminal), traffic, alcohol, minor drug-related crimes, drunk and disorderly, and a host of other crimes. That’s the real world.
Mature is the only JP in Walker County with jurisdiction over New Waverly ISD. He says proudly, “I think it’s one of the finest school systems in Texas.” He plays an active role with NWISD in helping those who have had recent drug problems and family-related issues, and he has helped in the reduction of truancy, disorderly conduct, and violence in the school system. He has spent time on the weekends being part of their rehabilitation process, and even taken part in a school play for drug awareness. He is a mentor at New Waverly Elementary for kids with no dads or single parents. And, once a week he brings an advocate from the SAAFE House in Huntsville, who works closely with victims of violence and sexual abuse. One can see why he is spoken of so highly in and around the little town of New Waverly—he’s known as a fair man who doesn’t take lightly the rights of the court or the people. He’s originally from Willow Springs and graduated high school from Coldspring, Texas, so he knows well the inner-workings of small town life.
Yes, Margaret has been with the New Waverly Post Office for almost 20 years. She started as an auxiliary, then moved to a permanent route. We lost our oldest son years ago to a drunk driver when we lived in Houston, so she stayed home and raised our sons Robert and Anthony. I’m against drunk drivers—they take so much from us all. Margaret started working for the post office after my retirement. Everything I’ve done has been with her help as a loving wife and mother. I couldn’t have done it without her. After we moved up to New Waverly, I ranched for a little while, raising cattle with the help of my sons, granddaughter Carolyn, and grandson Kenneth. Now my great-grandson Daniel helps out on the ranch. Margaret and I have been married almost 54 years now, and I’m so proud of my family. My sons Robert and Anthony, my daughter-in-law Rosie, grandkids Carolyn, Kenneth, and great-grandson Daniel, they are so much a part of me and Margaret’s lives. Oh, and we just found out Kenneth and his wife Heather are expecting their first child, a little girl. So the Mature family keeps growing.
I am passionate about the law. I’ve never been a politician, I just wanted to be an administrator of justice. I want to be remembered as being fair to everyone—civil or criminal—and that my court was never a jackpot for civil suits. I am also passionate about my ranch, and I take pride as a rancher with my cows and pets. I even have a seven-foot alligator named “Grown Man’ living in my pond—he’s been living there 15 years now. (laughs heartily)
After taking a brief tour from his office into the courtroom of the John James Pasket Justice Center, Mature wanted to make sure that Postcards mentioned his “dedicated” staff: Chief Clerk Jannell Bachmeyer and clerks Irma Bowden and Amanda Bohack. “I couldn’t do my job without these ladies,” he remarks. He then eases behind the bench and smiles. “You know, one of the more gratifying duties I have as judge is to marry people.” He winks and adds, “And then I give them a life sentence.”
Mature is retiring this year from Precinct 4, and Walker County stands to lose a decent and honorable man. He has too many positive achievements from his life’s work and role as a volunteer to fit in this article. He and his wife Margaret are members of Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church in New Waverly and are known as honest, hardworking servants in their community. His legacy and life of service has earned him an apt title—“Gatekeeper”—so don’t be surprised to see him at a function benefitting youth, or working tirelessly for a cause in need of a helping heart.
Thank you, Judge James Mature, for a job well done.