Theodore M. Brantley

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Theodore M. Brantley (or Brantly) (February 12, 1851 – September 16, 1922) was the longest-serving Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court, serving for 23 years (1899–1922).

Brantley was born near Lebanon, Tennessee. He came from a political family in Tennessee—two of his mother's brothers were elected governor of Tennessee (Neill S. Brown in 1847, John C. Brown in 1871).[1] Brantley was educated at Southwestern Presbyterian University in Clarksville, Tennessee and the law school of Cumberland University in Lebanon, graduating in 1881. After practicing law for several years, Brantly became a professor of Ancient Languages, first at Illinois College and then at the College of Montana in Deer Lodge. After returning to the practice of law for several years, Brantley was elected District Judge in the 3rd Judicial District of Montana in 1892 and then Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court in the November 1898 elections. He remained Chief Justice until resigning for reasons of health shortly before his death in 1922, in Helena, Montana.

Brantley's brother Erskine Brantly (1850–1936) was a prominent clergyman and school official in Oklahoma. (The rest of the family seems to have preferred the spelling Brantly, without the "e". Many period sources, however, spell Theodore Brantley's name with the added "e".[2][3][4])

Brantley was married in 1891 to Lois Reat and had 3 children - Theodore Lee, Lois Brown, and Neill Duncan Brantly.[5] (Note that his children seem to have reverted to the "Brantly" spelling.) Neill Duncan Brantly (1897–1972) joined the navy and became a Rear Admiral during World War II, commanding vessels at the Battle of Leyte Gulf.[6] Lois Brown Brantly (1894–1972) married Francis A. Hazelbaker, who was lieutenant governor of Montana 1929–1933.


  1. ^ Chronicles of Oklahoma, Volume 15, Number 2, "Reverend Erkine Brantly, D.D.", by R. L. Williams
  2. ^ Pacific Reporter, Volume 46, October 8 - December 31, 1896
  3. ^ History of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, 1845–1889, Bancroft and Victor, San Francisco, 1890, p. 803
  4. ^ Appleton's Annual Cyclopedia and Register of Important Events, Vol. 3, for 1898, published 1899, p. 466
  5. ^ National Cyclopedia of American Biography, Vol. 12 (1904), entry "Theodore Brantly".
  6. ^ Naval Engineers Journal, April 1973