William Smith Herndon, legislator and Confederate soldier, was born in Rome, Georgia, on November 27, 1837, and in 1851 moved to Texas with his parents. In 1859 he graduated from McKenzie College, near Clarksville, after which he read law at Tyler and was admitted to the bar in 1860. On November 11 of that year he married Mary Louise McKellar; they had eight children including suffragist Elizabeth Herndon Potter. At the outbreak of the Civil War Herndon was elected first lieutenant in Capt. W. F. Hamilton's company of Col. Joseph Bates's Thirteenth Texas Infantry; he eventually rose to the rank of captain. This regiment served coastal guard duty between Galveston and Matagorda through almost all of the war. After the war Herndon returned to Tyler, where he resumed his legal practice in partnership with Judge John C. Robertson and began to specialize in railroads. He served as counsel for a number of lines, on the board of the Tyler Tap line, and as vice president of the Kansas and Gulf Short Line Railroad. He was elected from the First Congressional District to the United States House of Representatives of the Forty-second Congress in 1871 in a closely contested election and served until 1875. He attended a number of Democratic national conventions and is said to have engineered the nomination of Winfield Scott Hancock for president at the Cincinnati, Ohio, convention in 1880. In 1892 Herndon was one of the leaders of the opposition to James S. Hogg. Herndon died in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on October 11, 1903, and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Tyler.
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Biographical Directory of the American Congress (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1859-). 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).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Thomas W. Cutrer,
“Herndon, William Smith,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 15, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
November 25, 2019