Shepard, James E. (1817–1894)

By: Jennifer Eckel

Type: Biography

Published: May 31, 2011

James E. Shepard, Confederate officer, lawyer, and community leader, was born on April 24, 1817, in Mathews County, Virginia, to Seth Shepard, a physician, and Mary Fountain(e) (Williams) Shepard. James Shepard spent his early years in Mathews County but left home at age sixteen to live with C. B. Shepard, a bachelor uncle, in Lewis County, Kentucky. James's study of the law began in the office of W. R. Beaty of Greenupsburg, Kentucky, and by the age of twenty-one, he had acquired an undergraduate education at Miami University at Oxford, Ohio, graduated from Cincinnati Law School, and been admitted to the bar at Flemingsburg, Kentucky. In 1839 James Shepard married Flemingsburg native Martha J. Andrews. The couple had at least seven children.

In November 1846 James moved to Brenham, Texas, in Washington County and formed a partnership with his elder brother Chauncey B. Shepard, who had arrived in Texas five years earlier. James and his wife were prominent citizens of their adopted hometown; their home was a "center of hospitality," and a venue for hosting prominent visitors. The pair also helped to found St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Brenham.

The Shepard brothers' practice grew, and both were considered prominent members of the state bar. In 1850 James was elected to the state legislature, where he served several terms. During this period he also made a name for himself as a litigator, "captivating" speaker, and excellent trial lawyer, arguing several cases before the Texas Supreme Court. This included Atkinson v. The State in 1857 during which he successfully argued for a stricter definition of first degree murder.

When the state secession convention was held in Texas in 1861, James Shepard was the Washington County delegate. Following the decision to leave the Union, Shepard was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in the Sixteenth Texas Infantry Regiment. His unit fought at the battle of Milliken's Bend in Louisiana and was also present at the battle of Mansfield and other skirmishes during the Red River campaign of 1864.

In 1864 Lieutenant Colonel Shepard was elected to serve as judge for the Third Judicial District. He was reelected in 1866 but was removed by military authorities in 1867 as an "impediment to reconstruction." Following the dismissal, Shepard served as dean of Baylor Law School until 1871, when the law department suspended operations. Through 1883 Shepard was listed as a member of the faculty at Baylor, where he is believed to have taught law courses, despite the law department's vague status. In 1874 James Shepard moved from Brenham to Austin, Texas, where he continued to practice law. In 1878 he became one of the two appointees to the Board of Prison Commissioners, where he worked with the governor to oversee private labor camps that leased convict labor from the state.

Described by contemporaries as a "venerable lawyer and excellent gentleman," James E. Shepard lived in Austin until his death on July 16, 1894. Upon his death he was interred in the family plot in the Old Masonic Cemetery in Brenham, Texas.

Biographical Encyclopedia of Texas (New York: Southern, 1880). James D. Lynch, The Bench and Bar of Texas (St. Louis, 1885). Mrs. R.E. Pennington, History of Brenham and Washington County (Houston, 1915).

  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Politics and Government
  • Judges
  • Lawyers
  • Sixth Legislature (1855-1856)
  • House
Time Periods:
  • Civil War

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

Jennifer Eckel, “Shepard, James E.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 30, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 31, 2011

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