Ebenezer LaFayette Dohoney, politician, son of Peyton and Mary (Hindman) Dohoney, was born on October 13, 1832, in Adair County, Kentucky. He graduated from Columbia College in 1854 as valedictorian of his class, received his law degree in 1857 from the University of Louisville, and practiced law for a short time in Kentucky before 1859, when he moved to Paris, Texas. His first appearance in politics took the form of canvassing Lamar County in opposition to secession. When the Civil War began he nevertheless joined the Confederate Army and eventually rose to the rank of captain of a Lamar County company. He served two active years but returned home because of poor health and did civil service for the remainder of the war. In 1862 Dohoney married Mary Johnson; the couple had eight children.
At the close of the war Dohoney resumed his private law practice and was appointed district attorney of the Eighth Judicial District by Governor A. J. Hamilton; he held that office in 1865–66. He considered Reconstruction a "military despotism" and believed that in itself it proved the South had been right in seceding. Dohoney was elected to the Twelfth and Thirteenth Texas legislatures as state senator. He is credited with originating the homestead law of 1871. He also supported a "six-shooter" act that prohibited carrying firearms in public places. While he was a legislator Dohoney made a committee report favoring woman suffrage and supported that issue nearly four decades before the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution gave women the vote. He also supported a return to the state's land-donation policy to encourage railroad building in 1871 and 1873. He was considered a leader in the Tax-Payers' Convention of 1871. He claimed credit for putting together an effective school bill during the Thirteenth Legislature, but his program was repealed in the next session.
Dohoney is best known for his role in promoting prohibition. As a delegate to the state Constitutional Convention of 1875 he authored a local-option clause-a clause authorizing citizens to decide by election whether alcoholic beverages will be sold in their communities-included in the Constitution of 1876. During the convention he also supported woman suffrage and a tuitionless school system. He became a Greenbacker in 1877 and published the Greenback Advocate for two years after the founding of the Greenback party. In 1882 he ran for Congress in the Fourth District but was defeated. He joined the new Prohibition party after the decline of the Greenbackers and in 1882 brought Woman's Christian Temperance Union president Frances E. Willard to Paris for a speech.
Dohoney ran unsuccessfully for Texas governor in 1886 as the Prohibitionist candidate against Democratic nominee Lawrence Sullivan Ross. In September of that year he had served on the platform committee for the party convention, which produced a platform that characterized future governor Ross as "a saloon stump speaker." Dohoney considered himself a Democrat in the Jeffersonian mold; he claimed that the Democratic and Republican parties were in the hands of a few and that a new party was needed to address the issues of prohibition and labor. He also claimed to represent the interests of antimonopolists. But the Dohoney campaign garnered fewer than 20,000 votes.
In 1887 Dohoney joined B. H. Carroll, James B. Cranfill, William Poindexter, and William S. Herndon as a speaker for the constitutional amendment for statewide prohibition, but the amendment lost. That year Dohoney purchased the Paris Texas Tribune. In 1891 he helped organize the People's party in Texas. As chairman of its platform committee he induced the party to favor local option. As the party's candidate in 1894 for chief justice of the Court of Criminal Appeals, he polled almost 200,000 votes.
Dohoney was raised in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church but later served as an elder in the Paris Christian Church. He wrote six books, including Man: His Origin, Nature and Destiny (1884), The Constitution of Man (1903), and Evolution of an Elder (1916). His autobiography, An Average American, appeared in 1907. He was stricken with paralysis in 1917 and was an invalid until his death on March 29, 1919.
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Seth Shepard McKay, Debates in the Texas Constitutional Convention of 1875 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1930). A. W. Neville, The History of Lamar County, Texas (Paris, Texas: North Texas, 1937; rpt. 1986). 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.
S. S. McKay and Doug Johnson,
“Dohoney, Ebenezer LaFayette,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 19, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
November 25, 2019