Sayers, Joseph Draper (1841–1929)

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: March 30, 2021

Joseph Draper Sayers, son of David and Mary Thomas (Peete) Sayers, was born in Grenada, Mississippi, on September 23, 1841. In 1851 he moved with his father, a physician, to Bastrop, Texas, where he attended Bastrop Military Institute from 1852 to 1860. In 1861 he joined the Fifth Regiment, Mounted Volunteers, C.S.A. He reached the rank of major in 1864 and was assigned to the staff of Gen. Thomas Green. He was paroled at Meridian, Mississippi, on May 10, 1865, and returned to Bastrop to teach and study law at night. After admission to the bar in 1866, he practiced law for ten years in partnership with George W. Jones. On March 5, 1868, he married Ada Walton in Bastrop. The marriage ended tragically when his wife died on February 25, 1871.

Sayers represented the Bastrop district in the Senate of the Thirteenth Legislature in 1873 and was chairman of the Democratic state executive committee from 1875 to 1878. He served one term as lieutenant governor, 1879–81. In February 1879 he married Orline Walton, the sister of his first wife, in Bastrop. Governor Oran Milo Roberts and his wife, Frances (Edwards) Roberts, gave the couple a wedding reception in the Governor’s Mansion. In 1884 he was elected to represent the Ninth and Tenth districts of Texas in the House of the United States Congress. There he served on the committee on naval affairs and the committee on appropriations and was instrumental in securing the long-delayed payment for the services of Texas Rangers on the Indian frontier.

Sayers received support from Edward M. House in his campaign against Martin M. Crane for governor in 1898; he was elected in 1898 and again in 1900. During his administration Texas experienced disasters in the form of the burning of the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, the Rio Grande City Race Riot of 1899, the Brazos flood of 1899, and the Galveston hurricane of 1900. In 1901 he received U.S. President William McKinley, the first sitting president to visit the Texas capital. At the end of his term as governor, Sayers and his wife briefly moved to San Antonio, then returned to Austin. He was a regent of the University of Texas in 1916 and supported the university in its struggle with James E. Ferguson. Sayers was chairman of the state Industrial Accident Board (now the Texas Workers' Compensation Commission) from 1913 to 1915, a member of the board of legal examiners from 1922 to 1926, and a member of the board of pardon advisors from 1927 until his death.

Joseph D. Sayers died on May 15, 1929, in Austin. The following day a small funeral service was held at his Austin home. A funeral procession brought his body to Bastrop, where he was buried. Masonic lodges from Austin and Bastrop conducted his internment service.

Austin American, May 16, 1929. Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1928. Houston Post, November 22, 1899. William Henry Korges, Bastrop County, Texas: Historical and Educational Development (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1933). Waco News-Tribune, May 16, 1929. Who Was Who in America, Vol. 2.


  • Education
  • Board Members
  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • Military
  • Confederate Military
  • Politics and Government
  • Government Officials
  • Senate
  • State Legislators
  • Thirteenth Legislature (1873)

Time Periods:

  • Civil War
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Progressive Era


  • Central Texas
  • Austin

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

Anonymous, “Sayers, Joseph Draper,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 01, 2021,

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March 30, 2021

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