Pleasant Williams Kittrell, author of the bill to establish the University of Texas, son of Bryant and Mary (Norman) Kittrell, was born at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on April 13, 1805. At age thirteen he entered the University of North Carolina, from which he graduated at age seventeen. His great-grandfather, Judge John Williams, had helped establish the university. Kittrell then studied at the medical college of the University of Pennsylvania but left without a degree in 1824 and returned to North Carolina to practice medicine. He served later as a trustee of the university and was also twice elected to the state legislature. In 1837 he moved to Alabama, where he was elected to the state legislature three times, though he continued his practice of medicine. While he was serving in the Alabama legislature the University of Alabama conferred on him an honorary master of arts degree. In 1847 he was married to Mary Frances Goree, his second wife. He served also as trustee of the Judson Institute, a school for girls that his father-in-law, Dr. Langston Goree, had served as regent.
In 1850 the Kittrells, along with the Goree family and their slaves, moved to Madison County, Texas. They later moved to Huntsville, where Kittrell's acquaintance with Sam Houston began. In Huntsville Kittrell continued his medical practice. He and Mrs. Kittrell had five children. Kittrell was twice elected to the Texas legislature. While serving as chairman of the Education Committee, he introduced and successfully fought for the bill to establish the University of Texas. The bill, signed by Governor E. M. Pease on February 11, 1858, appropriated every tenth acre of state land for the university and $200,000 in cash, a portion of the $10 million received by Texas for relinquishing claim to parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, and Wyoming. In 1866 Governor James W. Throckmorton appointed Kittrell chairman of the board of administrators of the still nonexistent university. After Houston died in 1863 Kittrell bought Houston's residence, the Steamboat House, and moved his family there. When the yellow fever epidemic struck Huntsville in 1867 he cared for fever patients until he too succumbed to the disease. He died at the Steamboat House, probably on September 29, 1867.