Donley, Stockton P. (1821–1871)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: May 29, 2020

Stockton P. Donley, attorney, was born in Howard County, Missouri, on May 27, 1821. He attended Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, and was admitted to the bar in that state before moving to Texas in 1846. He began his law practice at Clarksville and in 1847 moved to Rusk, where he became the partner of James M. Anderson. Donley soon distinguished himself as a skilled criminal lawyer. In 1853 he was elected district attorney of the Sixth Judicial District. His practical arguments and prodigious ability to unravel crimes were said to have been equal to those of such legendary lawyers as John Randolph and Patrick Henry. In 1854 he married Judith Evans of Marshall. Their son and only child, William S. Donley, later married Anna Reagan, a daughter of John H. Reagan, and became a prominent attorney.

In 1860 Donley moved his law office to Tyler. When the Civil War broke out the following year he enlisted as a private in Col. John Gregg's Seventh Regiment of Texas Volunteers. Soon after his promotion to a lieutenancy he was captured, along with the entire regiment, at the siege of Fort Donelson, Tennessee, in February 1862. Due to failing health after he was exchanged, he was assigned to post duty and continued in that capacity until the war's end, after which he resumed his practice at Tyler. He was elected to the Supreme Court of Texas in 1866 but removed from office by the Reconstruction military commandant on September 10, 1867. He then became the law partner of Oran M. Roberts, and later of John L. Henry. His wife died, and in 1867 Donley married Mrs. Emma Slaughter, with whom he had a daughter. He died at Kaufman on February 17, 1871, and was interred at Tyler. Donley County, in the Texas Panhandle, was named for him.

Zachary T. Fulmore, History and Geography of Texas As Told in County Names (Austin: Steck, 1915; facsimile, 1935). Sidney S. Johnson, Texans Who Wore the Gray (Tyler, Texas, 1907). James D. Lynch, The Bench and Bar of Texas (St. Louis, 1885). Ben H. Procter, Not Without Honor: The Life of John H. Reagan (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1962).

  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • Criminal Law and District Attorneys

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

H. Allen Anderson, “Donley, Stockton P.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 25, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 29, 2020