James Robert Watson, Jr.

October 29, 1936December 4, 2020
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James R. Watson died on Friday, December 4, 2020 at the age of 84. Jim had a life full of accomplishments. He was born in Graham, Texas where he grew up and attended Graham High School graduating with numerous football and track awards. Jim received a football scholarship from the University of Texas at Austin, where he played running back for the Longhorns. He received his Bachelors of Business Administration degree in 1958, then attended the University of Texas law school, obtaining his Juris Doctor degree in 1961.

It was as an undergraduate at The University of Texas where Jim met his wife of 43 years and mother of his children, Linda Louise Zerbe. They were married on June 1, 1958, in Houston, Texas. A member of the Texas State Bar, Jim primarily practiced Labor and Employment Law. He began his practice with Dixie, Wolf and Hall. He then became a founding partner of Bray, Orsburn, Browning and Watson, which later became Bray and Watson, and finally the law firm of Watson, Flynn and Bensik. In addition to practicing law, Jim also taught labor law at the South Texas College of Law for several years. In 1990, Jim became in-house counsel for the South Atlantic and Gulf Coast District of the International Longshoremen’s Association, where he practiced until his retirement in 2015. He remained a consultant to the ILA District until his death.

Jim argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and other Federal and State courts in Texas, as well as the National Labor Relations Board, primarily representing labor, including many unions in the State of Texas.

Of all his accomplishments, though, there was none greater to him than his happy family. He and his wife, Linda, together raised four children in Cypress, Texas. He served as coach to all three of his sons little league football teams - and most of all, he served as an example for all who knew him as a man of integrity and compassion. His and Linda’s time as horse ranchers at the Rockin’ JW Ranch in Normangee, Texas remain some of the most fun family memories for their children and grandchildren. Linda predeceased Jim in 2001. Following Linda’s passing, Jim married Lea Panos of Clear Lake, Texas, where they lived until her death in 2017. He is also predeceased in death by his dear brother William Max Watson in 2010.

Jim is survived by his four children: Jamie, Karla, Andrew (Denise), and Bob (Gretchen); seven grandchildren Holly (Kyle), Courtney (Tim), Michael, Tyler, Alex (Macy), Ivy, and Luke; and six great-grandchildren Jaxon, Stella, Kylar, Wyatt, Case, and Olivia - all of whom he loved and touched deeply. The family would also like to especially thank his caregiver, Maria Williams, who brought such brightness and comfort to Jim and the family.

A private graveside inurnment, attended by the family, will be held Friday, December 18, 2020 at 10:00 a.m., at Forest Park East Funeral Home and Cemetery, 21620 Gulf Freeway, Webster, Texas. To join the family at the graveside inurnment virtually, visit Jim’s Memorial page for a link to the livestream.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you please consider a donation to the Parkinson’s Foundation or the American Diabetes Association.


  • Graveside Inurnment

    Friday, December 18, 2020



James Robert Watson, Jr.

have a memory or condolence to add?

louis barkholtz

January 7, 2021

My wife "Donna" and I extend our deepest sympathies to the Watson family on the passing of Jim Watson.
As a client he provided guidence and counsel to me when I was a young and inexperienced union official.
He encouraged me to go to law school and I graduated from South Texas College of Law in 1980.
Jim Watson was my labor law professor at South Texas.
He continued to counsel me on labor matters after I became an
attorney and moved to Ft. Worth.
I always addressed him as "Dr. Watson" (as all law professors are
addressed.) A term of respect.
He did his best to get me to call him Jim, but out of respect I never did.
I interned at Bray and Watson for two semesters. I had the opportunity to observe Jim practice in state and Federal courts and the National Labor Relations Board.
He had the respect of his peers and when he spoke - people listened.
He was my friend and I will miss him.
Lou Barkholtz

Bruce Roberson

December 27, 2020

How proud you must be as children to have such a wonderfully solid and loving mother and dad! I feel your pain but you made them proud and THAT is all we as children can do! Bless you Jamie, Karla, Andy and Bob...Bless your families and always know you made your parents proud!!

Holly Watson

December 18, 2020

Love you Papa! Give Mimi a big hug and kiss for me!

Bill Spelman

December 14, 2020

I always enjoyed working with Jim because of the characteristics mentioned in the Obit; integrity and compassion! He was also one of the most honest guys I had the pleasure of working with. He will be missed.
All the best and I hope you and your family have a great (and safe) Christmas.

Timothy Mackey

December 14, 2020

Mr.Watson was a nice and honorable man. I got to know him obviously with and through my dad, but he always presented himself in a smart and professional manner.
May God Bless him and his family.
Tim Mackey

Scott Wilson

December 8, 2020

I grew up next door to the Watsons. Linda and Jimmy were like a second set of parents to me and my sister, and brother. Over the years, Mr. Watson took Bob and I hunting at the creek, gave us boxing lessons in the backyard, threw all types of balls to us, and tolerated a lot more silly kid behavior from me than he needed to. He always observed quietly, but when he spoke, his words carried great weight. One day, Andy offered to pay Bob and I if we did some yard work for him. We later found out that Andy had worked out a deal with Mr. Watson, and Bob and I had been hired out essentially as subcontractors. Bob wasn’t happy about this arrangement and appealed to his dad. Mr. Watson listened as Andy and Bob stated their cases. What followed was a thorough discussion on contract law. I don’t know if Bob and I ever got paid, but we certainly came away from the experience a little wiser. Years later, during an interview for a law clerking job at an employment law firm, I was asked why I was interested in employment law. I answered that my next door neighbor, Jim Watson, was a labor attorney and he had sparked my interest. The interviewer smiled, then said, “Jim Watson? Yes, he’s a good guy, and a fine lawyer.” I started on Monday.
The next semester of school, I took a labor law class taught by an adjunct professor. During the first class, the professor asked us to explain why we were taking a labor law class. I referenced Mr. Watson. The professor immediately smiled and said that Jim had been his labor law professor when he was in law school. He remarked that Mr. Watson was “an excellent attorney, and an even better guy.” My own daughters wince when they sense I am about to weigh in on a discussion topic they thought was innocuous, but I’m never deterred as I remember how Mr. Watson’s measured debates fueled something that went far beyond the immediate topic. I echo what others have said about Mr. Watson: an excellent attorney, but an even better man.