George Washington Burkett (Burkitt), businessman and politician, was born in County Derry, Ireland, on November 12, 1847. He immigrated to the United States during the Civil War and went to work for a contracting firm grading the roadbed of the Union Pacific Railroad. After rising to gang foreman he resigned and worked as a grading subcontractor for the Union Pacific in Utah until 1869, and for the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad in Kansas until 1872. He then moved to Texas, where he was a grading subcontractor for the Texas and Pacific and for the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio railways, before becoming a general contractor for the International-Great Northern Railroad. In that capacity he also built sections of line for the Trinity and Sabine, for the Santa Fe, for the Taylor, Bastrop and Houston, and for the Missouri, Kansas and Texas railways–often as a partner in Burkett, Murphy, and Burns.
In the late 1880s Burkett became one of the organizers and a vice president of the First National Bank of Palestine, a director of the Taylor National Bank, and a stockholder in the First National Bank of Stephenville and the First National Bank of Orange. Burkett married Mary Hartley of Houston in 1880, and they had a son and a daughter. Burkett was also president of the Taylor Water Works and Ice Company, a stockholder in the Palestine Cotton Seed Oil Company, a dealer in land and railroad ties, and president of the Palestine and Dallas Railway in the 1890s.
He made his entry into state politics as a delegate to the Republican national conventions of 1884 and 1888. In 1892 he was a member of the state executive committee of the "Lily White" Republican organization (see LILY-WHITE MOVEMENT) and in 1898 was on the executive committee of the Republican party in Texas. He was the gubernatorial nominee of the Edward H. R. Green faction but was withdrawn when the national executive committee recognized the opposing faction as representing Texas Republicans. In 1902 Burkett was the party candidate for governor in a harmony move between factions, but he was defeated by S. W. T. Lanham. In 1904 Burkett was again a leader of one of the factions within the party. He later served the regular party on its executive committee and as a presidential elector in 1908. He then joined the Progressive party as a follower of Theodore Roosevelt and was a presidential elector in 1912, a member of the state executive committee from 1912 to 1916, and a delegate to the national convention of 1916. He died in Houston on July 14, 1923, of cirrhosis of the liver, and was buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery.
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John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (Austin: Daniell, 1880; reprod., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Paul D. Casdorph, A History of the Republican Party in Texas, 1865–1965 (Austin: Pemberton Press, 1965). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. E. W. Winkler, Platforms of Political Parties in Texas (Austin: University of Texas, 1916).
Politics and Government
Transportation and Railroads
Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
Upper Gulf Coast
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Burkett, George W.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 27, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
October 22, 2020
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