James L. German, legislator and landowner, son of Zacheus and Nancy (Webb) German, was born near Versailles, Morgan County, Missouri, on May 8, 1835. His family was financially secure, and German completed his basic education in private schools and began teaching school in Missouri at the age of fifteen. In 1861 he entered the University of Missouri at Columbia, just as the Civil War began. He served in the Confederate forces as adjutant general under Gen. Sterling Price and was wounded at the battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862. After the war ended he moved to Kentucky Town, Texas, and joined a friend, Charles Carlton, in teaching school. On January 9, 1870, he married a former pupil of the Kentucky Town school, Eliza Paxton, daughter of Col. William Paxton, formerly of Kentucky. The couple purchased land east of Whitewright and eventually had eleven children, ten of whom lived to maturity.
German was an advocate of prohibition, served a term as representative from the Eleventh District to the Fourteenth Texas Legislature, and was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1875. He was an incorporator of Savoy Male and Female College in 1880 and remained a trustee and director until the school closed in 1890. He was also a member of the association formed in 1887 to establish Grayson College, one of the first coeducational institutions in Grayson County. All eleven German children attended Grayson College, where their father served as trustee until the school closed in 1912. German was also a benefactor and avid supporter of Carlton College in Bonham, Carr-Burdette College in Sherman, and Abilene Christian College. He was a member of the First Christian Church in Whitewright. He died on April 19, 1913, and was interred at the Whitewright Cemetery.