Shepard, Seth (1847–1917)

By: S. S. McKay

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: June 3, 2021

Seth Shepard, legislator, son of Mary Hester (Andrews) and Chauncey Berkeley Shepard, was born at Brenham, Texas, on April 23, 1847. He attended Texas private schools and served in the Confederate Army during the last months of the Civil War. He was graduated in law in 1868 from Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, Virginia, began practice at Brenham, and in 1874 was elected state senator from Washington County, He became an active leader in the "Democratic readjustment" following the administration of Edmund J. Davis. Shepard supported the movement for the Constitutional Convention of 1875 and was the Senate leader in the defeat of the plan to allow the International Railroad $4,000,000 in state bonds for building across the state. In 1874, 1876, and 1878 he failed by narrow margins to obtain the Democratic nomination for Congress from his district. He was nominated unanimously by the convention in 1880 but was defeated in a close race by George Washington (Wash) Jones, the Greenback party candidate. About this time Shepard moved to Galveston, where he was attorney for the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway. He made Dallas his home in 1886 and continued the practice of law. As a regent of the University of Texas from 1883 to 1891, he worked for better secondary schools and served as orator for the board on public occasions. He wrote the introduction and a chapter on the Alamo for the Comprehensive History of Texas (1898), edited by Dudley G. Wooten.

Shepard was a leading speaker in the fight against prohibition in 1887, opposed establishment of the Railroad Commission, and in 1892 supported the change from an appointive to an elective commission. When, in the Democratic split at the state convention of 1892, James S. Hogg's group followed the Populist doctrine of "free coinage of silver" and repudiated the platform of the national convention, which Shepard had helped to write, Shepard adhered to the George Clark faction, which declared for Grover Cleveland's policy of a gold standard. Shepard always insisted that the Hogg men were the bolters. He was appointed an associated justice of the Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia by Cleveland in 1893 and was made chief justice by Theodore Roosevelt in 1905. He was suggested for appointment to the United States Supreme Court in 1893 and 1895. Shepard was a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church. He served for twenty-one years as a lecturer in law at Georgetown University. He was married three times: on January 18, 1882, to Caroline Nelson Goree of Alabama, who died in 1889; on March 25, 1890, to Etta K. Jarvis of Louisville, Kentucky, who died in 1909; and subsequently to Mrs. Julia (Bones) Towsley of Washington, who, with four children, survived him. Shepard retired from the Court of Appeals in the spring of 1917 and died on December 3. He was buried in Washington.

Dictionary of American Biography. Proceedings of the Texas Bar Association 1919. Dudley Goodall Wooten, ed., A Comprehensive History of Texas (2 vols., Dallas: Scarff, 1898; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1986).

  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • Railroad and Transportation Law
  • Politics and Government
  • Government Officials
  • Senate
  • State Legislators
  • Fourteenth Legislature (1874-1875)
Time Periods:
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Progressive Era
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas
  • Southeast Texas

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

S. S. McKay, “Shepard, Seth,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022,

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June 3, 2021

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