Latimer, James Wellington (1825–1859)

By: Bruce Roche

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: June 19, 2020

James Wellington (Wake) Latimer, cofounder, editor, and copublisher of the first newspaper in Dallas, son of James L. and Jane (Hamilton) Latimer, was born in Tennessee, probably in Carroll County, on December 27, 1825. In 1833 his family settled near Clarksville, Red River County, Texas, where his father and two of his brothers, attorneys Albert H. and Henry R. Latimer, became active in state and local politics. Latimer studied law under his brothers and was admitted to the bar at age eighteen or nineteen. On February 22, 1847, he and Lucy M. Jordan were married in Bowie County. They had three children.

After serving in the First Division of Texas Volunteers during the Mexican War, Latimer returned to Northeast Texas and established a law practice in Paris in 1848. In the summer of 1849 he purchased an interest in the Texas Times in Paris and began serving as its editor. During the fall of 1849 he and his co-owner, William Wallace, moved the newspaper to Dallas, a new settlement with thirty-nine residents. Some evidence suggests that the paper was published first as the Cedar Snag, but by December it was appearing as the Dallas Herald. After Wallace's retirement in 1850 Latimer was the sole editor and proprietor of the paper until March 1854, when J. W. Swindells became co-owner.

Latimer became justice of the peace in June 1851 and served as chief justice of Dallas County from 1852 to 1854. In 1855 he was defeated in a bid to become state printer, a loss that also ruined an attempt to establish a newspaper in Austin. He was a Mason in Tannehill Lodge No. 52 and served as grand orator for the annual communication of the Grand Lodge of Texas in 1858. He heartily endorsed the Democratic party, slavery, education, cultural growth, and the development of roads, railroads, and river navigation. He often spoke bluntly in his newspaper, and among his most frequent targets was Sam Houston, whose politics Latimer opposed. The most prophetic of his editorials, "The Charleston Convention," appeared less than three months before his death. It cautioned his fellow Southern Democrats that they should not attempt to nominate a candidate for president in 1860 who was "committed to the most ultra views of the southern school" but rather a moderate, Stephen A. Douglas, who would respect Southern concerns and be electable. Failure to do this, he argued, would be devastating. On April 5, 1859, Latimer stumbled and fell while carrying a load of firewood and fractured his skull. He died the next day and was buried in the Masonic Cemetery in Dallas.

Berry B. Cobb, A History of Dallas Lawyers, 1840 to 1890 (Bar Association of Dallas, 1934). A History of Greater Dallas and Vicinity, Vol. 1., by Philip Lindsley; Vol. 2., Selected Biography and Memoirs, ed. L. B. Hill (Chicago: Lewis, 1909). Memorial and Biographical History of Dallas County (Chicago: Lewis, 1892; rpt., Dallas: Walsworth, 1976). Bruce Ware Roche, Wellington Latimer (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1957). John William Rogers, The Lusty Texans of Dallas (New York: Dutton, 1951; enlarged ed. 1960; expanded ed., Dallas: Cokesbury Book Store, 1965).

  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters
  • Publishers and Executives
  • Religion
  • Freemasonry
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas
  • North Texas

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

Bruce Roche, “Latimer, James Wellington,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 25, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 19, 2020

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