José María Rodríguez, politician and long-time Webb county judge, was born in San Antonio, Texas, on October 29, 1829, to Ambrosio Rodríguez and María de Jesús Olivarri. As a child he witnessed the storming of the Alamo from a ranch southeast of San Antonio, where his mother had taken the family when Antonio López de Santa Anna entered the town. In 1855 he took part in the Vidaurri Revolution. Rodríguez was made a first lieutenant, and when the troops arrived in Mier, Tamaulipas, the alcalde was able to solicit $5,000 for the cause. The only time Rodríguez was in actual battle was during the takeover of Matamoros. The Vidaurri Revolution, named after Gen. Santiago Vidaurri, who united the men, was aimed at removing Santa Anna from power; however, neither Vidaurri nor Rodríguez participated in the actual overthrow of the dictator. After Santa Anna's fall, Rodríguez returned to San Antonio, where he was tax assessor and collector for Bexar County and alderman for San Antonio in 1857–58. About 1861 he moved to Laredo as a schoolteacher. He studied law and began his practice in 1864. He also served as county clerk for four years during the 1860s. In 1879 Rodríguez was elected county judge of Webb County, a position he held for thirty-five years. During his term in office, the election riot of April 1886 occurred in Laredo. The two opposing political factions were the "Boots and Sandals" (Botas and Guaraches). Rodríguez was an important leader of the Bota faction because of his position as county judge. Although he was a politician and attorney, he was also a prosperous cattle rancher and trader. Throughout his life Rodríguez was seen as a public-spirited man who influenced the politics and daily life of San Antonio and Laredo. He married Feliz Benavides around 1861, and they had two children. He was a Democrat and a Catholic. Rodríguez died in Laredo on February 22, 1913. His book Memoirs of Early Texas was published the year of his death.
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John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (Austin: Daniell, 1880; reprod., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). San Antonio Express, June 21, 1927. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
Politics and Government
Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Michelle M. Espinosa,
“Rodriguez, Jose Maria,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 12, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
January 26, 2019
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