Longtime TX probate judge dies

Probate judge Gregory presided over high-profile cases
Jessica Faz
February 20, 2011
Houston Chronicle

Pat Gregory, a longtime Harris County probate judge who presided over such high-profile cases as the estate of billionaire Howard Hughes, has died. He was 76.

Gregory, a probate judge for more than 26 years, died Feb. 2 of complications that arose after a heart pump was surgically implanted in December, family members said.

His career ended after his 1993 indictment on three charges of filing false tax statements in connection with his use of campaign funds. He denied the charges, saying he had used the funds as personal loans that he intended to repay.

Paid for his mistakes

The former chief presiding probate judge for the state of Texas, Gregory eventually pleaded guilty to one count of filing a false tax return. He was sentenced to one year in prison and disbarred.

“Pat had a brilliant legal mind, and he paid for any mistakes he made,” longtime friend Chuck Stephenson said. “His troubles could never overshadow his esteemed career. He was bright and extremely well-versed in the probate code.”

A University of Houston alumnus, Gregory practiced law and worked for a county judge before running for judge of Probate Court 2 in 1968. During his time on the bench he never had a political opponent.

A tall, jovial man, Gregory was renowned for his aggressive command of the courtroom and quickly made a name for himself on the court circuit, his ex-wife Emma Gregory said.

Notable cases

In the 1970s he presided over Hughes’ estate settlement as well as that of Candace Mossler, a socialite accused of killing her husband in a highly publicized case in the 1960s.

Gregory also was the judge in the guardianship case of Ugo di Portanova, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and declared mentally incompetent and who was the grandson of the late multimillionaire oil mogul Hugh Roy Cullen.

Gregory founded the Texas College of Probate Judges, a nonprofit educational organization composed of probate court judges and their staffs. The organization was created to provide training and education to the probate courts.

“Much of the present probate code for the state of Texas was sponsored and/or authored by Judge Gregory,” colleague and friend Walter Jefferson said. “He has been an inspiration to young lawyers and was a dedicated friend.”

After he was released from prison, Gregory devoted himself to the community, relatives said.

He was a Contemporary Art Museum board member and captain for the International Committee for the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, longtime girlfriend Totsy Gano said.

“He loved the rodeo atmosphere,” Gano said. “He would auction himself off to cook a meal for the winning bidder. He just wanted to be involved with the community, but he never lost his love for the law.”

Heart condition

In 2002, Gregory petitioned for reinstatement of his law license.

A judge denied the petition.

Having battled congestive heart failure for many years, Gregory received a startling diagnosis in mid-2010. His doctors told him he had approximately six months to live, Gano said.

“Pat just went for it,” Stephenson said. “He gambled and fought for his life by having open-heart surgery.”

In December, Gregory had a heart pump surgically installed. He suffered immediate complications, spent several weeks in intensive care and was never able to recover, family said.

“Most of all, Pat wanted to rise above his personal trials,” Gano said. “He was a sincere, loving man who just had a difficult life.”

Survivors include his son, Kelly Gregory and wife Donna; son Kevin Gregory; son Keith Gregory and three grandchildren.

  • D.Jones

    Judge Pat Gregory took bribes on inheritance suits against the families that should’ve been awarded their inheritance. Instead, the estate administrators, through bribes to unethical judge Pat Gregory, took the inheritances away from the deserving families and judge Pat Gregory facilitated these events. There is absolutely no honor in cheating families out of their own deceased family members personal/corporate property so that he could own a piece of the pie himself, instead of the rightul heirs.