Chambers, William Morton (1821–1892)

By: Julianne Johnston and Robert Wooster

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: September 18, 2019

William Morton Chambers, lawyer, county judge, and gubernatorial candidate, son of Landon Gore and Mary Green (Allen) Chambers, was born in Orange County, Virginia, on November 18, 1821. He was the oldest of nine children. He moved to Texas in 1844 and settled in Liberty County, where he read law and was admitted to the bar. In 1853 he published his Sketch of the Life of General T. J. Chambers of Texas as a campaign biography for his uncle, Thomas Jefferson Chambers, who was running for governor. William Chambers was elected chief justice of Liberty County in 1856 and became the first chief justice of the new Chambers County, which was named for his uncle in 1858. By 1860 he had accumulated an estate with twenty slaves, the whole valued at more than $20,000. Chambers was a delegate from Chambers County to the Secession Convention of 1861 and served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

By 1866 he had become county judge of Chambers County. He abandoned his former Democratic affiliations and joined the Republican party, which rewarded him with appointment as judge of the First Judicial District. Chambers was involved in the political turmoil of Reconstruction and charged with several misdemeanors on the bench. The Fourteenth Legislature, however, refused to convict him. In a reorganization of judicial districts he was given jurisdiction of Orange County, even though he was not a resident of that area. The Republican party nominated Chambers, who had served as a delegate to its national convention in 1872, as its gubernatorial candidate in 1876. As a Republican, with a somewhat tarnished reputation as a jurist, he stood little chance against the rejuvenated Democratic party, which had resumed its dominance in Texas in the 1873 election. The Democratic incumbent, Richard Coke, won by a better than three-to-one margin. In 1880 Chambers again served as a delegate to the Republican national convention. He also waged a pair of unsuccessful campaigns in the 1880s. In 1882 he lost his bid for a seat in the United States Congress, and in 1888 he failed in his attempt to become state attorney general on the Nonpartisan ticket. Chambers married Theodosia Gillard DeBlanc around 1848, and they had two children. He married Petronille Lacour in 1855 and Betty Keyes in 1879. He died late in 1892.

Paul D. Casdorph, A History of the Republican Party in Texas, 1865–1965 (Austin: Pemberton Press, 1965). William Chambers, Sketch of the Life of General T. J. Chambers of Texas (Galveston: Galveston News Book and Job Office, 1853). Jewel Horace Harry, A History of Chambers County (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1940; rpt., Dallas: Taylor, 1981). E. W. Winkler, Platforms of Political Parties in Texas (Austin: University of Texas, 1916).

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

Julianne Johnston and Robert Wooster, “Chambers, William Morton,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 16, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 18, 2019