In a letter to William Henry Daingerfield dated January 28, 1843, President Sam Houston stated that Daingerfield and Ashbel Smith would be made Knights of the Order of San Jacinto. Houston's intent was that diplomats of the republic would not have to appear titleless and ribbonless among the aristocratic diplomats of Europe. In the letter Houston described the ensign of the order as a green ribbon, worn on the left breast or buttonhole of the coat. Along with the diplomats, Houston wished to honor others who distinguished themselves in service to Texas. The actual awards were probably never made, and besides the letter to Daingerfield there is no mention of the award in contemporary papers.
In 1939, at the suggestion of Hobart Huson, the Sons of the Republic of Texas revived the honorary degree. Huson suggested that the award be given to living men and women who had made a distinguished contribution to Texas; at the next annual meeting, members refused to include women. The award was given from 1941 through 1945 and then discontinued, as some members felt that several men not worthy of the order had been nominated. The honor was reinstated in 1952. Through 2003, 166 men had become Knights of the Order of San Jacinto. To qualify for knighthood an individual must be an active member of the Sons of the Republic of Texas. In addition, he must have performed outstanding service to the State of Texas, made a sacrifice beyond the bounds of duty on her behalf, or by his talents and effort contributed to the development of the heritage of Texas.