Smith, George Washington (ca. 1823–1873)

By: Charles Christopher Jackson

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: June 1, 1995

George Washington Smith, lawyer and public official, was born in Kentucky about 1823 and moved to Texas in 1847. He earned a reputation as a capable lawyer and eventually settled in Colorado County. By 1860 he had acquired property south of Columbus and possessed an estate valued at $76,000. In February 1860 Smith was chosen commissioner of the newly organized Columbus Tap Railway, which linked Columbus with Houston and Galveston. Although Smith was known as an opponent of secession in 1860, he retained the regard of his neighbors. He became judge of the First District court in 1859 and served in the post until 1866. After the Civil War he was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1866. Although he was reappointed to the First District bench by Governor Andrew J. Hamilton in 1866, in August of that year Smith was elected Justice of the Texas Supreme Court. A year later, however, on September 10, 1867, Smith and his four colleagues were disqualified as former Confederates and removed from the bench by the commander of the United States Fifth Military District, Gen. Philip H. Sheridan; their replacements later became known derisively as the Semicolon Court. In 1868 Smith was chosen to represent the Fourth Congressional District of Texas at the Democratic national convention in July in New York, where he supported President Andrew Johnson. In 1870 the Columbus-based Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway honored him by christening a new locomotive the George W. Smith. He represented the twenty-fifth district, comprising Colorado and Lavaca counties, in the House of Representatives of the Thirteenth Texas Legislature, January 14 to June 4, 1873, where he authored electoral reform legislation. Shortly after the end of the term, Smith fell victim to the 1873 yellow fever epidemic in Colorado County and died in his home on October 24 of that year. He and his wife, Mary, were the parents of two children.

Colorado County Historical Commission, Colorado County Chronicles from the Beginning to 1923 (2 vols., Austin: Nortex, 1986). Harbert Davenport, History of the Supreme Court of the State of Texas (Austin: Southern Law Book Publishers, 1917). Members of the Legislature of the State of Texas from 1846 to 1939 (Austin: Texas Legislature, 1939). George E. Shelley, "The Semicolon Court of Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 48 (1945).


  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • General Law

Time Periods:

  • Reconstruction

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

Charles Christopher Jackson, “Smith, George Washington,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 08, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995