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first popularly-elected President of the Republic of Texas
Sam Houston was born into a military family near Lexington, Virginia, on March 2, 1793. His father died when Sam was14, and his mother moved the family to eastern Tennessee, where he came to know the language and customs of the Cherokee Indians who lived in the area.
Joining the army during the War of 1812, Houston served under Andrew Jackson in the campaign against the Creek, who were allied with the British. After the war, Jackson secured a position for Houston as Indian agent to the Cherokee. He also studied law, and was elected District Attorney in Nashville. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1823, and again in 1825.
Elected Governor of Tennessee in 1827, Houston was forced to resign from office in 1829 after a nasty break-up with his new wife, Eliza Allen, resulted in rumors of infidelity and alcoholism. In April of 1829 he moved to Indian lands in Arkansas, where he is believed to have operated a trading post and married a Cherokee woman.
Houston is believed to have begun making trips into Texas about 1832, in hopes of gaining a land grant for the Cherokee from the Mexican government (Texas was then a province of Mexico). By 1835 he had established a permanent residence in Nacogdoches.
Soon after the outbreak of the Texas Revolution in 1836, Houston was appointed to command the fledgling Texas Army. He kept up a retreat from the Mexican Army for over a month, preferring to wait for the right opportunity to strike. That opportunity came in April, when General Santa Anna split his forces. Houston's successful attack at San Jacinto on April 21 ultimately led to Texas gaining its independence from Mexico.
Having secured Texas' independence, Houston was the first person to be popularly elected President of the Republic of Texas. After an interim term by Mirabeau B. Lamar, he regained that office in 1841. During his tenure Houston secured U.S. recognition of Texas and stabilized the republic's finances.
After Texas achieved statehood in 1846, Houston was chosen as one of the state's first U.S. Senators, and served in that capacity until 1860. In the Senate, Houston supported the Mexican War, but was disappointed when it did not result in the annexation of Mexico. Although he was a slaveholder himself, he consistently voted against the extension of slavery into new territories.
Elected Governor of Texas in 1859, Houston soon found himself again embroiled in controversy. In 1861 the people of Texas voted to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy. A very vocal opponent of secession, Houston refused to swear allegiance to the Confederacy and was removed from office.
Sam Houston died on his farm in Huntsville on July 26, 1863; he is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, in Huntsville.
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This page was last updated on October 22, 2017.