Joseph Draper Sayers, son of David and Mary Thomas (Peete) Sayers, was born at Grenada, Mississippi, on September 23, 1841. In 1851 he moved with his father 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. 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 of Bastrop. 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 Brazos flood of 1899, and the Galveston hurricane of 1900. At the end of his term as governor, Sayers began to practice law in San Antonio. 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. He died on May 15, 1929, and was buried in Bastrop.