Kittrell, William Henderson (1894–1966)

By: Cecil Harper, Jr.

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: November 13, 2019

William Henderson Kittrell, Democratic party worker and lobbyist, the son of William Henry and Laura (Henderson) Kittrell, was born on April 29, 1894, in Alexander, Texas. When he was four the family moved to Cisco, where his father was minister of the Church of the Living God. Kittrell was educated in the Cisco public schools and then briefly attended the University of Texas. In the mid-1920s he moved to Dallas, where he founded the Texas Press Clipping Bureau. Although he never ran for public office, his extensive political contacts and talent for working with people made him an influential leader of the state Democratic party. He was a close friend of Sam Rayburn, and he knew every Texas governor and five United States presidents. Wright Patman once said of him: "Bill was the only man I ever knew who was knowledgeable about every man who walked through the lobby of the Mayflower Hotel in Washington."

In 1928 and 1932 Kittrell was secretary to the Texas delegations at the Democratic national conventions. In 1930 he was Edgar E. Witt's campaign manager in his successful bid for lieutenant governor, and he traveled to San Marcos to enlist the aid of a twenty-one-year-old college senior, Lyndon B. Johnson, in the Hill Country counties. In 1933 he helped organize the campaign to pass a $20 million relief bond amendment for the needy. During World War II he served briefly as a Lend-Lease officer in North Africa and Turkey. In 1944 he helped lead the movement to stop the anti-Roosevelt faction of the Democratic party, the Texas Regulars. From 1944 to 1946 he was secretary of the state Democratic party executive committee, and in 1945 he was a transportation officer at the United Nations organizing meeting in San Francisco. In 1961 President John F. Kennedy appointed him a consultant to the Office of Civil Defense Mobilization. Ill health forced him to retire in early 1962. Kittrell's political activities included lobbying in behalf of a bill that located the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas. He then served as assistant general manager of both the centennial and the Pan American Exposition. He wrote book reviews for the Saturday Review of Literature and the preface for the book The Banditti of the Plains by Asa Shinn (1894). Kittrell was a well-known raconteur whom J. Frank Dobie praised as "that prince of storytellers." He was a member of the Dallas Athletic Club, the National Press Club, the National Democratic Club, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the Texas State Historical Association. He and his wife, Francis (Wasson), had three children. Kittrell died at his home in Dallas on April 24, 1966.

Dallas Morning News, February 12, 1961, April 25, 1966.

  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Cecil Harper, Jr., “Kittrell, William Henderson,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 25, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 13, 2019

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