William Addison Kendall, state legislator, superintendent of the Texas Institute for the Deaf and Dumb, farmer, and son of Allen and Elizabeth (Brown) Kendall, was born in Tazewell County, Virginia, on August 6, 1830. At the age of two, Kendall moved with his family from Virginia to Morgan County, Kentucky, where he was raised and educated before marrying Mary C. Daley, daughter of a local doctor, on March 22, 1853. While working in merchandising and trading, Kendall remained in Kentucky for approximately five years after getting married. He then moved with his wife and three children to North Texas in 1858. After settling briefly in Collin County, Kendall purchased land in neighboring Denton County, which he and his family made their permanent home. The Kendalls had a total of six children.
During the Civil War, Kendall was captured in Cheshire, Ohio, on July 20, 1863, while serving as an officer in the Third Regiment, Kentucky Cavalry, and was subsequently shuffled as a prisoner of war between multiple locations in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, South Carolina, and Georgia. After Kendall was released from Union custody on July 13, 1865, he returned to Texas and began a career in public service that spanned approximately three decades.
Kendall served one term as a representative for Denton County (District 45) in the Texas House of Representatives in the Eleventh legislature from 1866 to 1870, then returned to office in 1881. Between his legislative service, he farmed near Pilot Point in Denton County and engaged in various business and government supply contracts. His first wife died, and three years later, around 1871, he married Judith Virginia Rogers Ware, a widow. They had no children.
Kendall served two additional terms representing Denton County, in District 51 and District 32, respectively, in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth legislatures from 1881 to 1883 and 1883 to 1885. He served on numerous committees during his terms and chaired the Private Land Claims Committee during the Seventeenth legislature and the Select Committee on School Lands during the Eighteenth legislature. For his work as a legislator, Kendall earned praise in newspapers across the state for successfully sponsoring a bill that facilitated the growth of a printing industry in Austin by requiring official state documents to be printed in-state rather than in St. Louis and another bill that established a board to investigate land fraud.
Despite these successes, Kendall met with frustration in 1885 when he was unable to obtain an appointment to serve as an internal revenue collector, and again in 1886 when he tried but failed to earn a seat in the Texas Senate. Governor Sul Ross, however, deemed Kendall worthy of serving the state in an additional capacity and on February 1, 1887, appointed him to become the state superintendent of the Institute for the Deaf and Dumb, a position to which he was re-appointed by Governor James Hogg in 1891. During the two terms that Kendall served as superintendent from 1887 to 1891 and 1891 to 1895, he expanded the grounds and facilities and secured money for improvements such as the installation of electric light fixtures. The institution reportedly operated in a fiscally-responsible manner while also incorporating progressive reforms such as the incorporation of art into the curriculum in order to stimulate the imagination of students who were audibly impaired. Kendall’s stewardship of the institution was thus looked upon favorably by some observers, as one report indicated that the institution “has materially progressed along the lines of a first class school for the deaf and dumb, until now it has an enviable record among that class of schools in the union.”
William Addison Kendall was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. He died at Pilot Point in Denton County on April 9, 1910, and was buried at Pilot Point Community Cemetery. His obituary in the Denton Record and Chronicle praised Kendall as a “statesman of constructive ability” and remarked that he could not find “any man living to whom [Kendall] owed an apology for any act of his life.”