Smith, William Robert (1863–1924)

By: Anne W. Hooker

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: July 1, 1995

William Robert Smith, lawyer, judge, and United States congressman, son of Samuel Augustus and Melissa Caroline (Dobbs) Smith, was born near Tyler, Texas, on August 18, 1863. He was named for two of his uncles, who had died fighting for the Confederacy. He attended public schools and graduated from Sam Houston Normal Institute at Huntsville in 1883. In 1888 he moved to Colorado (now Colorado City), Texas. He practiced law there until he was appointed judge of the Thirty-second Judicial District of Texas in May 1897; he served from 1897 to 1903. Smith resigned after becoming the Democratic nominee for representative to the Fifty-eighth Congress from the newly established Sixteenth District; he defeated his Republican opponent by 22,118 votes to 291. Smith served from 1903 until he lost the election in 1916. In Congress he served on several committees, including the Committee on Elections No. 3 and Interstate and Foreign Commerce (1910–12). He became chairman of the Committee on Irrigation of Arid Lands in 1911 and held that position for the rest of his tenure. Perhaps the most important bill he introduced and saw passed was that for the Elephant Butte Irrigation Project to provide irrigation water for farms in the Rio Grande valley around El Paso. Smith left Congress on March 4, 1917, and the following month President Woodrow Wilson appointed him United States district judge for the Western District of Texas, with headquarters in El Paso, to where the family then moved. Smith married Frances Lipscomb Breedlove of Brenham in 1890, and the couple had five children. He died in El Paso on August 16, 1924, and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery there.

Lore and Legend: A Compilation of Documents Depicting the History of Colorado City and Mitchell County (Colorado City Record, 1976). United States Congress, Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989 (Washington: GPO, 1989).
  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Politics and Government
  • Judges
  • Lawyers
  • General Law
Time Periods:
  • Republic of Texas

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

Anne W. Hooker, “Smith, William Robert,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 20, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995