William H. Holland, soldier, legislator, and teacher, was born a slave in Marshall in 1841. He and his brothers James and Milton were probably the sons of Capt. Bird Holland, a white man who bought their freedom in the late 1850s and took them to Ohio. William and Milton attended the Albany Enterprise Academy, a school owned and operated by Blacks. On October 22, 1864, Holland enlisted in the Union Army's Sixteenth United States Colored Troops, which was organized in Nashville, Tennessee, but included enlisted men from Ohio. Holland participated in the battles of Nashville and Overton Hill and in the pursuit of John Bell Hood to the Tennessee River. He also did garrison duty in Chattanooga and eastern and middle Tennessee. His brother Milton enlisted in the Fifth United States Colored Troops, organized in Ohio, and won the Medal of Honor for his role in the battle of New Market Heights on September 29, 1864.
Holland entered Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, in 1867 and attended for at least two years before returning to Texas, where he taught in various counties and in the city schools of Austin. He also received an appointment to a position at the Austin post office. When he later resigned he had one of his pupils appointed as his successor. In 1873 Holland served as a member of the committee on address at the Colored Men's Convention (see BLACK STATE CONVENTIONS) that met at Brenham.
The date of his move to Waller County is unknown, but in 1876 he won election to the Fifteenth Legislature as a representative from that county. In the legislature he sponsored the bill providing for Prairie View Normal College (now Prairie View A&M University). In 1876 and 1880 he was chosen as a delegate to the Republican national convention. He later submitted a memorial to the Texas legislature for the establishment of a school for the deaf, mute, and blind in the state. The Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Institute for Colored Youth (see TEXAS BLIND, DEAF, AND ORPHAN SCHOOL) was established by law on April 5, 1887. Holland was appointed by Governor Lawrence S. Ross to be its first superintendent on August 15, 1887. His wife, Eliza H. (James), joined the staff in 1890 as an instructor for the deaf. Holland served for ten years before being succeeded by S. J. Jenkins, who served until he died in 1904. Holland then resumed the position and served until his death. He also founded a charitable organization known as the Friend in Need. He and his wife had two daughters. Holland died in Mineral Wells on May 27, 1907.