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Legett, Kirvin Kade (1857–1926)

Vernon Gladden Spence Biography Entry

Kirvin Kade (K. K.) Legett, civic leader, attorney, rancher, and farmer, son of Kirvin Kade and Mintie (Berry) Legett, was born at Monticello, Arkansas, on November 6, 1857. He studied law in a Cleburne, Texas, attorney's office and in 1879 moved to Buffalo Gap, a frontier town nestled in the Callahan Divide. The town was made the Taylor county seat in 1878. Construction of the Texas and Pacific Railway out of Fort Worth was expected to go through Buffalo Gap, but the tracks passed fifteen miles to the north. Legett joined those who moved from Buffalo Gap to the T&P tracks and founded Abilene in 1881. He participated in the first auction of town lots, made himself a leader in the community, and was soon looked upon by the local newspaper editor as "the most promising young lawyer in West Texas." He was later (1909) elected first president of the Taylor County Bar Association. At age twenty-six, Legett was the youngest of the fourteen Democratic presidential electors representing Texas in 1884. He later led a crusade in West Texas for statewide prohibition, and he personally persuaded the state legislature to mark off a new congressional district in West Texas. These varied activities made him the first Abilenian to gain statewide political attention.

Though he lacked formal education, Legett was one of the founders in 1891 of Simmons College (now Hardin-Simmons University). He wrote the school's first charter, served as a charter member of its board of trustees, and delivered its first commencement address. He also established a reputation as an orator. In 1894 his colleagues unsuccessfully tried to persuade him to accept the Democratic nomination to the state Senate. But Legett explained that because the rewards of public office are uncertain he would not subject the welfare of his family to voters. In 1898, however, he accepted an appointment as first referee in bankruptcy for the Abilene district, an office he regarded as a civic duty. When he retired from that assignment, his twenty-two-year tenure exceeded that of any other referee in bankruptcy in the United States. In 1902, during a financial crisis at Simmons College, Legett accepted the presidency of the Simmons board of trustees; shortly thereafter Governor Samuel W. T. Lanham appointed him to the board of directors of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University). Legett accepted the latter appointment because he believed agricultural and mechanical colleges were, of all institutions of higher learning, most responsive to the nation's needs. He later became chairman of the A&M board and, as chairman, demonstrated a special interest in the Prairie View branch of the college, now Prairie View A&M University. Upon Legett's retirement from the A&M board, James Wilson, United States secretary of agriculture, publicly recognized Texas A&M as the best agricultural and mechanical college in the nation. Enumerating the advantages of a diversified economy, Legett spoke throughout the state in behalf of both agricultural and industrial development, and in 1914 he helped to persuade Governor Oscar B. Colquitt to proclaim the state's first Diversification Week. That movement led in turn to a Texas diversification program sponsored by the Texas Bankers Association. In 1886 Legett married Lora Bryan, daughter of W. C. Bryan, a breeder of fine cutting horses and cattle. One of the Legetts' three children was Ruth Legett Jones. Legett died in Abilene on June 5, 1926.

K. K. Legett Papers, Hardin-Simmons University. Vernon Gladden Spence, Judge Legett of Abilene (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1977).


  • Education
  • Board Members
  • Founders and Pioneers
  • School Founders
  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • General Law

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

Vernon Gladden Spence, “Legett, Kirvin Kade,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 06, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 1, 1995