Baker, William Robinson (1820–1890)

By: Diana J. Kleiner

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: September 1, 2016

William Robinson Baker, Houston mayor, Texas state legislator, and railroad official, the son of Asa and Hannah (Robinson) Baker, was born in Baldwinsville, New York, on May 21, 1820. He moved to Texas in 1837, worked as a bookkeeper for the Houston Town Company, and in 1841 was elected Harris county clerk, a position he filled for the next sixteen years. Baker made his considerable fortune as a land dealer. He married Hester Eleanor Runnels on December 15, 1845, and the couple had one child. Between 1852 and 1877 Baker served as secretary, vice president, general manager, president, and board member of the Houston and Texas Central Railway. In 1860 he had real property valued at $300,000, personal property worth $75,000, and twenty-three slaves, but by 1870 the value of his assets had declined to real property valued at $218,000 and personal property valued at $8,000. In 1874 he was elected as a Democrat to the state Senate and from 1880 to 1886 served as mayor of Houston. He purchased an interest in the Houston Post in 1883 and was president of the City Bank of Houston. He was a Mason. He died on April 30, 1890.

Biographical Encyclopedia of Texas (New York: Southern, 1880). History of Texas, Together with a Biographical History of the Cities of Houston and Galveston (Chicago: Lewis, 1895). William S. Speer and John H. Brown, eds., Encyclopedia of the New West (Marshall, Texas: United States Biographical Publishing, 1881; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Ralph A. Wooster, "Wealthy Texans, 1860," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 71 (October 1967).

  • Fourteenth Legislature (1874-1875)
  • Senate
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Reconstruction
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Diana J. Kleiner, “Baker, William Robinson,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 06, 2022,

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September 1, 2016

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