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Pope, William Henry (1847–1913)

Robert Lee Williamson Biography

William Henry Pope, soldier, lawyer, and public official, was born in Washington, Georgia, on February 15, 1847, the son of Alexander and Sarah (Willie) Pope. In 1858 the family moved to Texas and settled at Marshall, where Pope attended Marshall University. He enlisted in the Confederate Army in the winter of 1863 and served as a scout in Terry's Texas Rangers (the Eighth Texas Cavalry) until the end of the Civil War, when he began studying law at the University of Virginia. He was admitted to the bar in 1868 and was elected Harrison county attorney in 1869. He was not elected in 1870, when Republicans won all county offices under the new constitution, but was reelected to the office in 1876 and 1878. The 1878 election was characterized by massive fraud. About 1872 Pope married Fannie Stedman; they had four children. Beginning in 1882 he served for ten years as state senator from the Marshall District. In 1889 he authored the separate coach law, which authorized separate railway coaches for blacks and whites, and he later described himself as the "Jim Crow Senator." He also authored the insolvent corporation act and was active in presenting the claims of Texas against the United States for services rendered by the Texas Rangers in suppressing uprisings on the Texas frontier. Governor Lawrence S. Ross appointed him special agent to urge the claims before the United States Congress. Pope spent four years in Washington, D.C., and eventually succeeded in having the claims of about $1.5 million recognized and paid in full. In the 1890s, while practicing law in Marshall, Pope represented a woman in a child custody trial; in an incident provoked by the case, he was shot and gravely wounded, and his brother was killed. With his appointment to the receivership of the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad in 1896, he moved to Beaumont. He was elected judge of the Fifty-eighth Judicial District in 1902 and was reelected in 1906 and 1910. He died of uremic poisoning in a Waco hospital on February 15, 1913, and was buried in Marshall.

Alwyn Barr, Reconstruction to Reform: Texas Politics, 1876–1906 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971). Beaumont Enterprise, February 16, 1913. Randolph B. Campbell, A Southern Community in Crisis: Harrison County, Texas, 1850–1880 (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1983). Dermont H. Hardy and Ingham S. Roberts, eds., Historical Review of South-East Texas (2 vols., Chicago: Lewis, 1910). Sidney S. Johnson, Texans Who Wore the Gray (Tyler, Texas, 1907). E. W. Winkler, Platforms of Political Parties in Texas (Austin: University of Texas, 1916).


  • 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.

Robert Lee Williamson, “Pope, William Henry,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 23, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.