José Antonio Navarro, a leading Mexican participant in the Texas Revolution, son of María Josefa (Ruiz) and Ángel Navarro, was born at San Antonio de Béxar on February 27, 1795. His father was a native of Corsica, and his mother was descended from a noble Spanish family. Navarro's early education was rudimentary, though he later read law in San Antonio and was licensed to practice. He was compelled to flee to the United States because of his support of the Gutiérrez-Magee expedition in 1813 but returned to Texas in 1816. A developing friendship with Stephen F. Austin served to deepen his interest in Texas colonization. Before Texas independence Navarro was elected to both the Coahuila and Texas state legislature and to the federal congress at Mexico City. He supported Texas statehood in 1835 and embraced the idea of independence the following year. Along with his uncle, José Francisco Ruiz, and Lorenzo de Zavala, he became one of the three Mexican signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence and one of just two native-born Tejano signers. Upon his election to the Texas Congress as a representative from Bexar, Navarro sought to advance the rights of Tejanos, whom many Anglo-Texans held in contempt after the Texas Revolution. He also generally endorsed the policies of President Mirabeau B. Lamar while opposing those of Sam Houston. As a supporter of Lamar, Navarro was selected as a commissioner to accompany the foolishly conceived Santa Fe expedition. Decimated by Indian attacks and suffering from hunger and thirst, those who survived the march from Austin tamely capitulated outside the gates of Santa Fe. After imprisonment under brutal conditions at Veracruz for fourteen months, Navarro escaped and returned to Texas.
He had for a long time favored the annexation of Texas to the United States. He was the sole Hispanic delegate to the Convention of 1845, which was assembled to accept or reject the American proposal; after voting in the affirmative, he remained to help write the first state constitution, the Constitution of 1845. He was subsequently twice elected to the state Senate, though in 1849 he refused to run again. In 1846, in recognition of his contributions to Texas over the years, the legislature named the newly established Navarro County in his honor. The county seat was then designated Corsicana, in honor of his father's Corsican birth. As a devout Catholic, Navarro strongly condemned Sam Houston's association with the nativist and anti-Catholic American (Know-Nothing) party. He was equally critical of Houston's pro-Union vote on the Kansas-Nebraska issue. Always a strong advocate of states' rights, in 1861 he defended the right of Texas to secede from the Union. Although he was too advanced in years to participate in the Civil War, his four sons served in the Confederate military. In 1825 Navarro married Margarita de la Garza; they had seven children. He died on January 13, 1871.