Kenneth Lewis Anderson, lawyer and vice president of the republic, son of Kennith and Nancy (Thompson) Anderson, was born on September 11, 1805, in Hillsborough, North Carolina. His early education consisted of self-learning, but he reportedly also attended William Bingham's school. He worked as a shoemaker at an early age. By 1824 he was living in Bedford County, Tennessee, where he became deputy sheriff in 1826 and sheriff in 1830. From 1830 to 1837, Anderson worked as a local activist and regular correspondent with James K. Polk. Anderson was a disappointed applicant to become a U.S. Marshall in 1830 and 1834, but he was elected a colonel in the militia by 1833. About 1825 Anderson married Patience Burditt; the couple had three children. Two sons, Theophiles and Malcolm became prosecutors in San Antonio, while a grandson, William, became a state district judge in San Antonio.
In 1837 the family moved to San Augustine, Texas, where Mrs. Anderson's brother-in-law Joseph Rowe had lived for five years. In 1838 Anderson served successively as deputy sheriff and sheriff. It was probably after he arrived in Texas that he studied to become a lawyer. President Mirabeau B. Lamar appointed him collector of customs for the district of San Augustine, and he was confirmed on November 21, 1839. He served until he became a candidate from San Augustine County for the House of Representatives of the Sixth Congress in 1841; he won with the largest majority in the county's history at that time. As a partisan of Sam Houston, Anderson was elected speaker of the House on November 1, 1841. He immediately led an unsuccessful attempt to impeach Lamar and Vice President David G. Burnet. Anderson declined a nomination for secretary of the treasury to spend more time with his family in San Augustine, and the post went to William Henry Daingerfield. In 1842 he helped convince Houston to veto the popular but dangerous war bill, which sought to force an invasion of Mexico.
After one term, and despite President Houston's pleas, Anderson retired in 1842 to practice law in San Augustine with Royal T. Wheeler; he eventually formed a partnership with J. Pinckney Henderson and Thomas J. Rusk. In December 1842 Anderson became district attorney of the Fifth Judicial District. In 1844 Anderson was frequently mentioned as a candidate for president, but eventually he became the Houston party candidate for vice president, on a ticket headed by Anson Jones. Anderson's opponent, Patrick Jack, died before the election, and Anderson won nearly unanimously. He presided over the Senate at Washington-on-the-Brazos in June 1845, when the Texas Congress approved annexation. After adjournment he immediately left for home despite being sick. After only twenty miles, he was forced to stop at the Fanthorp Inn, where his bilious fever flared. He died of malaria on July 3, 1845, and was buried in the Fanthorp cemetery. The vice president had been considered the leading candidate to become the first governor of the state. His law partner, Pinckney Henderson, was instead elected governor in December. Anderson was a Mason. Fanthorp was renamed for him in 1846, and on March 24, 1846, Anderson County was established and named in his honor.
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Malcolm Anderson, "Biographical Sketch of Col Kenneth L. Anderson," 13-page handwritten manuscript (c. 1878), V.O. King Papers, Texas State Archives, Austin. James T. DeShields, They Sat in High Places: The Presidents and Governors of Texas (San Antonio: Naylor, 1940). John S. Ford, Rip Ford's Texas, ed. Stephen B. Oates (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1963). Thomas Clarence Richardson, East Texas: Its History and Its Makers (4 vols., New York: Lewis Historical Publishing, 1940). Leslie H. Southwick, "Kenneth L. Anderson, Last Vice President, Almost First Governor of Texas," East Texas Historical Journal 30 (Fall 1992). Herbert Weaver, et al. ed., Correspondence of James K. Polk (Nashville: Vanderbilt Univ. Press, 1969-1977), Vols. I-IV. LaGrange Intelligencer, July 7, 1845. Stephen B. Oates, ed., Rip Ford's Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987), 20. William R. Hogan, The Texas Republic: A Social and Economic History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press,1946, rep. 1969), 224-26. Madge Thornall Roberts, ed., The Personal Correspondence of Sam Houston, Vol. 1 (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1996), 186.
Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Leslie H. Southwick,
“Anderson, Kenneth Lewis,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed July 01, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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