Pendleton Murrah, last governor of Texas during the Civil War, was probably born in Alabama in 1826, although some sources place his birth in South Carolina in 1827. He was raised in an orphanage, educated by a Baptist charitable society, and graduated from Brown University in 1848. He moved to Alabama, where he was admitted to the bar, but he suffered from tuberculosis and in 1850 moved to Texas seeking the relief of a dry climate. He opened a law office in Marshall, where he met Sue Ellen Taylor, daughter of a prosperous cotton planter. After a brief courtship the two were married, on October 16, 1850. Murrah was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for the legislature in 1855. He ran again in 1857 and won. In 1858 he was chosen a member of the Democratic State Executive Committee. He announced as a candidate for the Confederate Congress in 1861 but withdrew due to ill health. He served briefly as a quartermaster officer in the Fourteenth Texas Infantry in early 1862 but was forced by poor health to resign his commission. His health improved sufficiently to allow him to run for governor in the summer of 1863. Several candidates entered the race, but all except Murrah and Thomas Jefferson Chambers withdrew before election day. Although Chambers, who had run for governor three times before, was better known, Murrah benefited from Chambers's known hostility toward the Jefferson Davis government at Richmond. Newspaper editors and party leaders endorsed Murrah, who won the election by more than 5,000 votes.
As governor, Murrah became involved in a series of controversies with Gen. John B. Magruder, the Confederate military commander of the Texas district, and his superior, Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department. The most serious of these disagreements was over conscription of troops for the army. Murrah argued that individuals enrolled in the state militia, particularly in frontier counties, were not subject to conscription by Confederate authorities. Magruder contended that Confederate laws had superiority over state legislation and attempted to enroll all eligible men in Confederate service. Murrah criticized Magruder's high-handed tactics and insisted that Confederate authorities give ground. When Gen. Nathaniel Banks moved up the Red River in the spring of 1864, however, Murrah reluctantly yielded to Confederate requests for troops. He continued to maintain that the state had a special claim over potential recruits in frontier counties. Governor Murrah and Confederate authorities clashed on other issues. In an effort to obtain money and badly needed supplies for his department, Smith had established a cotton bureau for purchasing and selling cotton. Texas farmers and planters, who had no desire to exchange their cotton for depreciating Confederate currency, appealed to Murrah for relief. Murrah established a state plan for purchasing cotton with Texas land warrants. This action touched off a round of correspondence between Texas and Confederate officials, with Murrah again reluctantly giving in to Confederate pressures. On July 19, 1864, he appealed to Texans to deliver their cotton to the army's agents. Even though he frequently quarreled with Confederate authorities, he supported Kirby Smith in his determination to carry on the war in spite of military reversals. In an address to the people on January 14, 1865, Murrah urged Texans to put aside personal ambitions and make sacrifices in defense of their liberty. Even after Lee's surrender, Murrah continued to urge resistance. When it was obvious that Union forces would occupy the state, he vacated his office, leaving Lieutenant Governor Fletcher Stockdale in charge, and joined other Confederate leaders fleeing to Mexico. The long trip was too much for Murrah, who continued to suffer from tuberculosis. He was confined to bed upon reaching Monterrey and died on August 4, 1865.