John Levi Sheppard, lawyer, judge, and legislator, the son of John Levi and Amanda (Morris) Sheppard, was born in Bluffton, Chambers County, Alabama, on April 13, 1852. After the elder Sheppard died in 1858, the family moved to Texas and settled near Wheatville, now in Morris County, where Sheppard's maternal grandfather, Rev. Samuel Morris, lived. Sheppard was educated in the common schools of the area, and in the early 1870s he operated a general store while studying law on his own. He was admitted to the bar in 1879, and in 1880, in partnership with R. D. Hart, he opened a law office in Daingerfield. In 1882 he was elected district attorney for the Fifth Judicial District, a position he held until 1888. He was elected district judge in 1888 and reelected four years later without opposition. During his terms as district judge Sheppard became active in the state Democratic party and served as a member of the platform committee at the 1890 state Democratic convention. He was an ardent supporter of James Stephen Hogg, whom Sheppard met when he was serving as district attorney. In 1892 Sheppard was the choice of the Hogg forces for temporary chairman of the state Democratic convention and was chosen for the position after the supporters of George Clark had left the convention. The next year Hogg appointed Sheppard as a delegate to the National Bimetallic Convention in Chicago. In 1896 he was a delegate to the Democratic national convention and was chosen a member of the committee that traveled to New York to inform William Jennings Bryan of his nomination.
In 1896 Sheppard retired from the bench and entered private law practice in partnership with J. F. Jones. In 1898 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives from the First Congressional District. He was reelected in 1900 and nominated for a third term in 1902. Sheppard married Margaret Alice Eddins in September 1873. He suffered from Bright's disease, and in the summer of 1902 he began traveling to various health resorts in an attempt to regain his health, but to no avail. He died on October 11, 1902, and was survived by his wife and seven children. His oldest son, John Morris Sheppard, succeeded him in Congress.
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Richard Ray Bailey, Morris Sheppard of Texas: Southern Progressive and Prohibitionist (Ph.D. dissertation, Texas Christian University, 1980). Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (5 vols., ed. E. C. Barker and E. W. Winkler [Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1914; rpt. 1916]). U.S. 57th Congress, 2d Session, Memorial Addresses on the Life and Character of John Levi Sheppard (Washington: GPO, 1903).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Cecil Harper, Jr.,
“Sheppard, John Levi,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 20, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
June 1, 1995