Meriwether Lewis Crawford, soldier, lawyer, and politician, was born in Estill County, Kentucky, to Jeptha Dudley and Katherine (Kenningham) Crawford on January 22, 1841. Meriwether, who always preferred his initials, M. L., moved to Texas with his family in the early 1840s. According to his mother’s obituary, they originally settled in Cass County but later moved to Marion County where his father entered the mercantile business in Jefferson. When hostilities broke out in 1861, Crawford, with his brother William, helped organize Company A, Nineteenth Texas Infantry, which became an integral part of Walker’s Texas Division under the command of Maj. Gen. John G. Walker. During the war, M. L. survived a bout with disease in 1862 and in 1864 was wounded at the battle of Pleasant Hill where he was singled out for heroism and promoted to regimental aide-de-camp for Col. Richard Waterhouse.
Following the war, Crawford moved to New Orleans where he briefly worked in the mercantile business with his father. Soon he moved to Galveston where he clerked and studied law under former Confederate colonel Thomas N. Waul, a brigade commander in Walker’s Texas Division. In 1868 Crawford was admitted to the State Bar of Texas, and in the early 1870s he returned to Jefferson where he joined his brother’s firm, which then became Crawford and Crawford. Governor Edmund J. Davis appointed Crawford judge of the Seventh District Court in 1873, but another judge took his place after only a few months. In 1875 M. L. Crawford married Emma Jane Sparks of Georgia and began a family that would produce four children—William, Catherine, Margaret, and Jacqueline.
Crawford remained in Jefferson through the 1870s, but at the beginning of the next decade he moved to Dallas, where he and his brother William joined Lucas F. Smith in a law partnership called Crawfords and Smith. In 1882 Crawford was appointed and confirmed as a regent for the University of Texas, a position in which he served for just over one year. He also became very active and influential in the Democratic Party. In 1896 he served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention where he opposed the free coinage of silver and denounced supporters of William Jennings Bryan. After delivering several speeches across the country supporting the supremacy of gold, Crawford earned a seat at the Indianapolis Monetary Convention in 1897. His dedication to the gold standard and the work of the convention influenced the Gold Standard Act of 1900 signed by President William McKinley. On May 15, 1910, Crawford died at his home in Dallas. He was buried in Greenwood Cemetery.
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Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Texas, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C. Dallas Morning News, June 26, 1902. Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 15, 1910. “Meriwether Lewis Crawford,” Find A Grave Memorial (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=24872921), accessed July 25, 2015.
Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
Politics and Government
Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
David J. Williams,
“Crawford, Meriwether Lewis,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 20, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
July 25, 2015
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: