Taylor, Thomas Jefferson II (1874–1960)

By: Mark Odintz

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: August 4, 2020

Thomas Jefferson Taylor II, merchant, philanthropist, and father of Lady Bird Johnson, was born on August 29, 1874, in Autauga County, Alabama, the son of Thomas Jefferson and Emma Louisa (Bates) Taylor. He moved to Texas in the mid-1890s and opened a store in Karnack, Harrison County. In 1900 he married Minnie Lee Patillo of Alabama; they had two sons and a daughter, Claudia Alta, who married Lyndon Baines Johnson. Sometime before 1912 Taylor purchased the Andrews Plantation house, an imposing two-story brick residence now known as the Lady Bird Johnson Home. Taylor amassed considerable wealth by using the profits from his store and other business ventures to advance money to needy farmers at ten percent and by investing heavily in real estate. Very much a typical successful rural entrepreneur of his times, he was called "Cap'n Taylor" by his business associates and "Mister Boss" by black sharecroppers; he was probably the largest landowner in Harrison County by the 1930s. In 1934 Taylor donated to the state about two-thirds of the land (some 385 acres) composing Caddo Lake State Park. He was one of his son-in-law's principal financial backers in his first race for Congress in 1937. At one time Taylor owned the land on which the Longhorn Ordnance Works (later the Longhorn Army Ammunition Plant) was constructed during World War II. Minnie died in 1918, and Taylor's second marriage ended in divorce. He married his third wife, Ruth Scroggins, in Marshall in 1937. Taylor was a member of the Karnack Methodist Church for some sixty years. He died on October 22, 1960, after a long illness and was buried at Algoma Cemetery, Marshall.

Austin American, October 23, 1960. Robert A. Caro, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power (New York: Knopf, 1982). Alfred Steinberg, Sam Johnson's Boy (New York: Macmillan, 1968). Antonio J. Taylor, Oral History Interview, Transcript, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, Austin. Vertical File, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, Austin.

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

Mark Odintz, “Taylor, Thomas Jefferson II,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 22, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/taylor-thomas-jefferson-ii.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 4, 2020