Congressmen of Texas First District--Part II

John Henninger Reagan, 5th and 8th Congressman of the First District
John Henninger Reagan, 5th and 8th Congressman of the First District | Source

Reagan to Stewart

  • John Henninger Reagan--Born in Sevierville, Tennessee, October 8, 1818. He moved to Texas in 1839 and fought in the Cherokee War of that year, then worked as deputy state surveyor from 1839-43, and studied law privately, opening his practice in 1848, practicing in Palestine and Buffalo. He served in the state House of Representatives from 1847-49, and as district court judge, 1852-57, then as First District Congressman from 1857-61. Reagan returned to Texas to participate in the secession convention of 1861, then was chosen to serve in the provisional Confederate Congress; but was instead appointed by Jefferson Davis to serve as his Postmaster General. While still in this position, Reagan fled Richmond with Davis on April 2, 1865, and was appointed Secretary of the Treasury on April 27, holding both positions until their capture in Irwinville, Ga., on May 10. His political prospects in Texas were temporarily derailed when he wrote an open letter from prison warning of harsh treatment for the state if it resisted military reconstruction; he was forgiven by voters, however, when events proved him right. After successfully forcing Republican Governor E.J. Davis to surrender his office in 1874. Reagan was again elected to the U.S. Congress from the First District, and helped write the new state Constitution in 1875; his hometown of Palestine was redistricted into the Second District in 1883, but he continued in Congress until 1887. In his last session, he helped pass the law creating the Interstate Commerce Commission, and he was also the first chairman of the Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1887, and served there until his appointed as Chairman of the newly created Texas Railroad Commission by Gov. Jim Hogg in 1891, where he served until 1903. Reagan was also a founder of the Texas State Historical Association. He died in Palestine on March 6, 1905, aged 86 years. Reagan County is named for him.
  • George Washington Whitmore--Born in McMinn County, Tenn., August 26, 1824. He moved to Harrison County, Texas, in 1848, and practiced law throughout the 1850s. He served as a Whig, unionist, member of the state legislature in 1852 and 1853, and as a supporter of Sam Houston from 1859-61. He served as an alternate elector, pledged to John Bell, in 1860, and attended the special legislative session called by Gov. Houston to delay the secession drive in 1861; he voted against the resolution validating secession, and condemned it publicly. He moved to Smith County, and was briefly arrested there for his outspoken unionism. During Reconstruction, Whitmoreserved as register in bankruptcy in Tyler in 1867, and helped write the Constitution of 1869. From 1870-71, he was Republican First District Congressman, but lost in his bid for re-election. He remained active in the Republican party, and died in Tyler on October 14, 1876, age 52, one year after his wife's death.
  • William Smith Herndon--Born in Rome, Ga., November 27, 1835. Moving to Wood County, Texas, in 1852, he graduated from McKenzie College in 1859 and was admitted to the bar in 1860, practicing in Tyler. He fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War, rising to captain, then returned to his law practice; he represented various railroad companies in several capacities from 1868-81. Herndon served in the U.S. Congress from the First Texas District as a Democrat from 1871-75, until his defeat by John Reagan. He then served again as a railroad construction lawyer, and died in Albuquerque, N.M., on October 11, 1903. aged 67 years.
  • Charles Stewart--Born in Memphis, Tenn., May 30, 1836. Not related to the Charles B. Stewart who was a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. He moved to Galveston in 1845, and was admitted to the bar in 1854, setting up practice in Marlin. He was prosecutor for the 13th judicial district from 1856-60, and delegate to the 1861 secession convention. Following infantry and cavalry service in the Confederate army, Stewart resumed his law practice, and served as city attorney of Houston from 1874-76, and in the state Senate from 1878-82. Stewart succeeded John Reagan as First district Congressman in 1883, serving until 1893, when he returned to his law practice. He died in San Antonio on September 21, 1895, aged 59 years.

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