Lyon, Cecil Andrew (1869–1916)

By: Brian Hart

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: November 22, 2020

Cecil Andrew Lyon, Republican political leader, was born to Oliver Thomas and Lydia Doris (Dupont) Lyon at Boston, Georgia, on November 29, 1869. In 1876 he moved with his parents to Sherman, Texas, where he went to school. He attended Austin College from 1882 to 1884, A&M College from 1884 to 1886, and Pennsylvania Military College from 1886 to 1890, when he received a bachelor's degree in architecture and was ranking captain of the cadet corps. Following a year-long "grand tour" of Europe, he returned to Sherman and entered his father's prosperous lumber business. He married a cousin, Claudia Dupont, at Jacksonville, Florida, on June 12, 1900. By 1890 he had become a member of the state Republican Executive Committee, and by 1902 he was chairman of that committee. He personally conducted President Theodore Roosevelt on a tour of Texas and a hunting trip in 1905 and considered Roosevelt a personal friend. Because Texas during this period elected no Republican congressmen or senators Lyon was able to control federal political appointments in the state. He appointed postmasters throughout Texas, and in many regions his friends made up the Republican party. With such control of the party at the state level, Lyon also dominated the selection of delegates to the party's national convention; during his tenure as state chairman those delegates hewed loyally to the party line. Lyon's position as chairman of the state Republican Executive Committee also contributed to his selection as the Texas delegate to the Republican National Committee from 1904 to 1912.

His political practices won many enemies, however. By 1910 opponents of the Republicans were pointing out the dramatic decline in the number of votes garnered by the party's gubernatorial candidates during Lyon's tenure, and persistent rumors spread that he took for his own use 5 percent of the salaries of the officeholders whom he sponsored; furthermore Lyon had alienated Black Republicans. Belief was common in Southern Republican circles at the time that in order to attract support, the state Republican party must become "lily white." Lyon was aided by such devices as the poll tax, the activities of "White men's associations," and a lack of Black political unity. The result of the opposition was a split in Republican ranks, and Lyon's political power was reduced just before the presidential election of 1912. The supporters of the incumbent Republican president, William Howard Taft, distrusted Lyon's loyalty to Roosevelt, whom Lyon indeed supported. A split Texas Republican party sent two delegations, one pledged to Taft and one pledged to Roosevelt, to the national convention in Chicago. At this meeting the Republican National Committee, led by party regulars who supported the incumbent, awarded a large majority of the state's delegates to Taft. In addition, Lyon, by breaking with his tradition of party regularity, lost his seat on the national committee and the leadership of the state organization.

On the heels of the Republican convention, when Roosevelt bolted the party to run as the candidate of the National Progressive Republican League, Lyon led the state Progressive convention, which met at Dallas. He served as this party's state chairman and as a national committeeman from 1912 until his death. After Democrat Woodrow Wilson's victory Lyon worked to unify the Republican party in the state. He called for a meeting of reunification that convened in Dallas in March 1915 and served as the first step in healing political wounds. Lyon, however, played only a small role in that reunification, for he died on April 4, 1916, in a Sherman hospital of complications resulting from an operation for an abscessed liver. At the time of his death, in addition to his political activities, he was president of the Lyon-Gray Lumber Company, vice president and general manager of the Hardeman County Irrigation Company in Sherman, and a member of the board of directors of the Great Southern Life Insurance Company of Houston. He also played a role in 1914 in the development of the Texas National Guard, of which he was commanding officer under the governor. Lyon was a member of the Loyal Legion, the National Press Club, the Republican Club of New York, and the Army-Navy Club of New York. He was buried in West Hills Cemetery in Sherman. See also PROGRESSIVE ERA.

Paul D. Casdorph, A History of the Republican Party in Texas, 1865–1965 (Austin: Pemberton Press, 1965). Dallas Morning News, April 5, 1916. Lewis L. Gould, "Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Disputed Delegates in 1912," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 80 (July 1976).

Time Periods:

  • Progressive Era

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

Brian Hart, “Lyon, Cecil Andrew,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 19, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 22, 2020