Plemons, William Buford (1844–1901)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: May 1, 1995

William Buford Plemons, judge, was born on June 2, 1844, in Macon County, North Carolina, and spent his early years on his father's farm. When the Civil War broke out he enlisted in the Sixteenth North Carolina Regiment and served as color-bearer. He was later promoted to sergeant and assigned to line duty; he saw action in almost all of the major campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia. He was wounded three times and was present at Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox in April 1865. After the war Plemons returned home and in 1867 married Mary Elle Kelly of Mesic County, North Carolina. She died the following year after giving birth to a son. Soon afterward Plemons decided to move to Texas, where he planned to establish a colony of settlers from his home state. On the way he met a group of people from Alabama also journeying to Texas. Among them was Mary Elizabeth "Mittie" Martin, whom Plemons married soon after their arrival in Wood County, Texas. Their first home was at Winnsboro. The couple had four children.

Plemons exchanged his colonization scheme for the study of law and began a lifelong friendship with James Stephen Hogg, later governor of Texas. After his admission to the bar in 1872 he moved to Henrietta, in Clay County, where he established his practice. He was elected judge of Clay County in 1876 and served two terms before moving to the Panhandle in 1886 and settling on the section which became the Plemons Addition in Amarillo. His oldest son, Barney, filed on land in Hutchinson County that became the site of the town of Plemons, the first county seat, and also bought a section in Potter County. W. B. Plemons was elected the first Potter county judge in 1887, and two years later he purchased from John Merchant a section of former Frying Pan Ranch pasture on Amarillo Creek northwest of the townsite. The marriage of his daughter Belle Helen to James R. Gober, first sheriff of Potter County, is said to have been the first wedding in Amarillo.

As a pugnacious criminal attorney who worked zealously on behalf of his clients, Plemons became judge of the Forty-seventh District in 1890. He was elected to the Texas legislature in 1894 and served on the judiciary committee, where he was an advocate of land legislation to benefit the Panhandle area. He was instrumental in the passage of the Four-Section Act, which was designed to allow settlers sufficient land for stock raising in a semiarid environment. Plemons declined reelection to the legislature and formed a law partnership with John W. Veale in Amarillo, an association continued until Plemons's death. He died of apoplexy on the morning of December 14, 1901, and was buried in Amarillo.

John Crudgington, "Old Time Amarillo," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 30 (1957), 79–113. J. Evetts Haley, Charles Goodnight (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1949). Della Tyler Key, In the Cattle Country: History of Potter County, 1887–1966 (Amarillo: Tyler-Berkley, 1961; 2d ed., Wichita Falls: Nortex, 1972). Millie Jones Porter, Memory Cups of Panhandle Pioneers (Clarendon, Texas: Clarendon Press, 1945). H. C. Randolph, Panhandle Lawyers (Amarillo: Russell Stationery, 1931). F. Stanley [Stanley F. L. Crocchiola], The Plemons Story (Nazareth, Texas, 1973). Thomas F. Turner, "Prairie Dog Lawyers," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 2 (1929).


  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Politics and Government
  • Judges

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

H. Allen Anderson, “Plemons, William Buford,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 22, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995