Citizen's Party of Harrison County

By: Christopher Long

Type: General Entry

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: October 20, 2020

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The Citizen's Party of Harrison County was the first of the so-called White Primary political parties formed after Reconstruction. In the years after the Civil War the Black-dominated Republican party held a decided majority in the county. In an effort to end local Republican rule, a citizens' club, including most of the White voters, met and founded the party in the fall of 1878. The party was led by James F. Taylor, a former Whig and Constitutional Union party leader; Amory R. Starr, the son of James Harper Starr; Jonathon D. Rudd, Democratic Party county chairman; and other prominent citizens.

On October 12, 1878, the party held a nominating convention and selected William T. Scott, the county's wealthiest antebellum planter, to run for the lower house, as well as a slate of other candidates. The party presented itself as a nonpartisan citizens' group seeking to restore honest and efficient government to the county, though it was clearly an attempt by White traditional leaders to regain political power. In an attempt to sway the Black vote, party leaders called for racial harmony and promised to protect political rights. The party also employed other tactics, including making its ballots similar to those used by the Republicans as a means of confusing illiterate Black voters. The election was held on November 5, 1878, and at first it appeared that the Republicans had won most of the important contests. But Citizen's party leaders challenged the returns from one of the important districts, arguing that the box had been improperly located, and obtained an injunction from a Democratic district judge. When the Republican county judge refused to recognize the injunction, Citizen's party leaders seized the sheriff's and county clerk's offices, recounted the ballots, and issued themselves certificates of election. In a counter move, the Republican county judge issued certificates of election to Republican candidates. Outgoing Governor Richard Bennett Hubbard and incoming Governor Oran M. Roberts refused to intercede, and the Citizen's party candidates retained control of the offices. After 1878 the party became the vehicle for the White Primary. Whites retained control of local offices until 1952, when the party was declared unconstitutional by a federal circuit court.

Alwyn Barr, Reconstruction to Reform: Texas Politics, 1876–1906 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971). Randolph B. Campbell, A Southern Community in Crisis: Harrison County, Texas, 1850–1880 (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1983). Marshall News Messenger, April 6, 1952. Lawrence D. Rice, The Negro in Texas, 1874–1900 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1971).

Time Periods:

  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas

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

Christopher Long, “Citizen's Party of Harrison County,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 18, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994
October 20, 2020