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Former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle Dies At 78

Former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle (second from right) at the dedication of the Ronald Earle Building in Austin on Sept. 24, 2018. District Attorney Margaret Moore is shaking Earle's hand.
Travis County District Attorney's Office
Former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle (second from right) at the dedication of the Ronald Earle Building in Austin on Sept. 24, 2018. District Attorney Margaret Moore is shaking Earle's hand.

Former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle died Sunday morning at the age of 78. Earle first ran for the office in 1976 and went on to serve eight terms.

“[It’s] a legacy that will probably not ever be matched,” current Travis County DA Margaret Moore, who’s known Earle since 1973, said in a statement. “He set a standard for Travis County prosecutors that endures today: Above all else, see that justice is done.”

Earle graduated from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law in 1967. He then went on to serve as a municipal judge in Austin from 1969 to 1972. Following that, he became a Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives until he decided to run for Travis County DA.

"He was an early proponent of criminal justice reforms,” Moore said. “His leadership in a nontraditional view of prosecution that embraced innovations like community justice and victim advocacy won him national recognition.”

One of the things he is especially known for is bringing money laundering charges against then-U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

In September 2018, a new Travis County DA's office building was dedicated to Earle. A plaque there holds a quote from him that reads, “This building is where justice is to be done. That makes it a sacred place. Justice is the highest expression of the human spirit. It calls us to be better than we are. We may all hope that we honor that call.” 

He is survived by his wife, Twila, and three children, Nikki, Elisabeth and Jason. Since 2003, his daughter Elisabeth has served as judge of the County Court at Law No. 7.

Correction: A previous version of this story only noted two children. 

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