David Browning Culberson, lawyer, soldier, and politician, was born in Troupe County, Georgia, on September 29, 1830, the son of David B. and Lucy (Wilkerson) Culberson. After leaving Brownwood Institute, La Grange, Georgia, he read law at Tuskegee, Alabama, in the school of William B. Chilton, chief justice of Alabama. He was admitted to the bar in 1850 and began practice in Dadeville. In 1856 he moved to Texas and settled in Upshur County, where he practiced law in partnership with Gen. Hinche P. Mabry until 1861, when he moved to Jefferson. Culberson was a member of the Texas legislature from Upshur County during the session 1859–60; he resigned his seat because he opposed secession and his district favored it. When the Civil War began he aided in raising the Eighteenth Texas Infantry, of which he became lieutenant colonel. After service in the Vicksburg area in 1862 and 1863 his health broke, and he was assigned to Austin as adjutant general of Texas. In the winter of 1864 he was elected to the legislature from Cass, Titus, and Bowie counties and resigned his military position to accept.
Culberson attended the Democratic state convention in 1868 and served as a presidential elector. As a prominent Jefferson lawyer he was one of the defense attorneys in the Stockade Case of 1869, and he helped defend accused murderer Abe Rothschild in the Diamond Bessie Murder Trial. Culberson was elected in 1873 to the state Senate; he resigned when he was elected to the Forty-fourth Congress of the United States. He was reelected for ten successive terms and served from March 4, 1875, to March 3, 1897. In office he supported prohibition and opposed federal interference in state government. In 1876 he favored the repeal of the Specie Act, and in 1888 he introduced antitrust legislation in Congress. Though he was in sympathy with many of their political goals, Culberson campaigned against the Populists in the 1890s, attacking them as a divisive force in state politics. On June 21, 1897, he was appointed by President William McKinley to the committee to codify the laws of the United States. He served in this capacity until his death.
On December 8, 1852, he married Eugenia Kimball; they had two sons, one of whom, Charles A. Culberson, became governor of Texas. Culberson was a Mason and an Odd Fellow. He died in Jefferson on May 7, 1900, and was buried in Girard Cemetery.
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Alwyn Barr, Reconstruction to Reform: Texas Politics, 1876–1906 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971). Biographical Directory of the American Congress (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1859-). Biographical Encyclopedia of Texas (New York: Southern, 1880). Robert C. Cotner, James Stephen Hogg: A Biography (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1959). Lewis E. Daniell, Personnel of the Texas State Government, with Sketches of Representative Men of Texas (Austin: City Printing, 1887; 3d ed., San Antonio: Maverick, 1892). Sidney S. Johnson, Texans Who Wore the Gray (Tyler, Texas, 1907). 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). Marcus J. Wright, comp., and Harold B. Simpson, ed., Texas in the War, 1861–1865 (Hillsboro, Texas: Hill Junior College Press, 1965).
Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Anne W. Hooker,
“Culberson, David Browning,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 17, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
December 1, 1994
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: