While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Diana J. Kleiner
Criss Cole
Photograph, Portrait of Criss Cole. Courtesy of the Legislative Reference Library. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Criss Cole
Photograph, Picture of Barbara Jordan, Joanne Cole, and Criss Cole at the State Capitol in 1969. Courtesy of the Barbara Jordan Archives at Southwestern University. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Criss Cole
Photograph, Picture of Criss Cole (facing away) shaking hands with Texas lawmakers. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

COLE, CRISS (1918–1985). Criss Cole, Texas legislator and judge, was born on May 11, 1918, in Sawyer, Oklahoma, one of ten children of sharecroppers James M. and Drucy Cole. He spent his childhood on a farm near Avery, Texas. He worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps near Golden, Colorado, before joining the United States Marines in 1940. He served in Iceland, New Zealand, and Guadalcanal. As a corporal, he was blinded in 1943 during a beach attack at Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands by a Japanese grenade, an injury for which he was later awarded a Purple Heart. He returned to civilian life, moved to Houston, completed high school work, worked for Reed Roller Bit and as a legal stenographer for the city's legal department, and took prelaw courses at the University of Saint Thomas. He received his law degree in June 1954 from the University of Houston law school. Cole was a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1955 to 1962 and served in the Texas Senate from 1963 to 1970. In 1971 he was appointed to preside over what became in 1977 the 315th District Court, one of three courts handling juvenile cases in Harris County. He helped to pass bills establishing Padre Island National Seashore and the University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at HemisFair in San Antonio, was instrumental in passing a measure banning racial discrimination by state and local governments, and was involved with measures for redistricting, loan-company regulation, multiple use and pollution of Texas waters, and vocational rehabilitation. In 1970, 1976, and 1977 he attended the National College for Juvenile Justice. Cole served as director of the Lighthouse for the Blind, vice president of the Texas Air and Water Resources Foundation, state general chairman for the Texas Society for the Prevention of Blindness, and state advocate for the Knights of Columbus. He was a member of the Houston and Texas Bar associations, a trustee of the University of Saint Thomas, and a founder and president of the Hope Center for Youth in Houston. In 1969 the legislature voted to name Austin's rehabilitation center for the blind in his honor. Cole married Joanne Spica on September 25, 1945; the couple had two sons. Cole died on June 21, 1985, in Houston and was buried in Houston National Cemetery.


Houston Metropolitan Research Center Files, Houston Public Library. Mary Reincke, American Bench: Judges of the Nation (Minneapolis: Reginald Bishop Forster, 1977-). Texas Bar Journal, April 1986. Texas Parade, August 1974. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Diana J. Kleiner, "COLE, CRISS," accessed August 05, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fcobm.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on November 18, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...