George John Durham, state official and writer, was born in Norwich, Norfolk, England, on May 12, 1820, the son of William and Ester (Bloomfield) Durham; he was a younger brother of William Davis Durham. He immigrated to the United States in 1835 and moved to Texas from New Jersey in 1837. The next year he became chief clerk in the comptroller's office, which was located in Houston at that time (see CAPITALS). He moved to Austin with the government in 1839. Durham was in Austin when surveyors laid out the site for the new capital in 1839 and purchased twenty-eight of the original lots. He served as an officer in the Travis Guards (see TRAVIS GUARDS AND RIFLES) in 1840, and in 1842 he resisted the moving of government documents from Austin during the Archives War. After annexation he was chief clerk in the comptroller's office under James B. Shaw and Clement R. Johns. Durham was the auctioneer in Austin in December 1850, when the government sold town lots to raise money for the construction of a building for the land office. He married Cassandra Lincecum, the daughter of Gideon Lincecum, on December 23, 1852; they became the parents of seven children, three of whom lived to adulthood.
Durham was elected mayor of Austin in 1852. In 1854, while in that office, he shot and killed a man who had repeatedly threatened his life; he was acquitted. In 1861 he was a delegate to the Secession Convention. He served for a short time as an orderly sergeant in the Confederate Army but was recalled to act as state war-tax collector. In 1865, after the break-up of the Confederacy, he successfully resisted armed men who tried to remove funds from the comptroller's office. Durham ran for state treasurer on the ticket with James Webb Throckmorton in 1866 but was defeated. He served as secretary of the Democratic state convention in 1868.
He was also an ornithologist, an authority on Texas grapes, an excellent marksman, and a writer. Under the pen name De Los Llanos he contributed a series of hunting articles entitled "Shooting in Western Texas" to the London Field magazine. Durham was a correspondent of the Smithsonian Institution, and he wrote two articles on grape culture and several articles on game in Texas published in the Texas Almanac of 1868–69. In 1867 he was elected a corresponding member of the Academy of Natural Science in Philadelphia. He died of typhoid in Austin on April 10, 1868, and was buried in the family plot at Oakwood Cemetery.