Terrell, Charles Vernon (1861–1959)

By: Wayne Gard

Type: Biography

Charles Vernon Terrell, attorney and state official, son of Samuel Lafayette and Emily Catherine (Kellam) Terrell, was born in Texas in a log cabin near the Denton-Wise county line on May 2, 1861. He attended the schools of Decatur and Texas A&M, where he enrolled in 1881. His father's death required him to return home before he completed college. He clerked in a store, drove ox and mule teams between Fort Worth, Dallas, Sherman, and Denison, and engaged in quarrying and hauling rock, before he obtained a teaching certificate and taught at a country school for four months. He then read law in a private office. After being admitted to the bar in 1885, he became city attorney of Decatur in 1886 and served for four years. In 1886 he was also the Decatur correspondent for the Dallas Morning News. He served as a first lieutenant and captain of the Decatur Rifles and led the militia unit at the Fort Worth railroad strike (see GREAT SOUTHWEST STRIKE) when Governor John Ireland called out the state guard. In 1892 Terrell was elected county attorney of Wise County, a post he held for four years, during which he vigorously prosecuted cattle rustlers. In 1896 he was elected to the first of two terms as a state senator from the Thirty-first District. In the legislature he supported the bill to found Southwest Texas State Teachers College in San Marcos, introduced the bill to establish North Texas State Teachers College, and supported bills for compulsory school attendance, uniform textbooks, and the use of public land to finance education. Terrell was elected state treasurer in 1922. After two years in that post he became a member of the Railroad Commission. In his fifteen years on the commission, he supported the fight for equalization of freight rates, aided in bus and truck regulation, and worked for the conservation of oil and gas through the proration of production. He was the author of a book of reminiscences, The Terrells (1948). A portrait of Terrell was unveiled in the Texas Senate on his ninety-second birthday, May 2, 1953. On August 9, 1893, he married Etta May, a Decatur teacher; they had two sons and a foster daughter. Terrell died in Austin on November 17, 1959, and is buried in the State Cemetery.

A. Garland Adair, "Statesman on Horseback," Texas Parade, January 1960. Dallas Morning News, November 18, 1959. Under Texas Skies, December 1954. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Clarence R. Wharton, ed., Texas under Many Flags (5 vols., Chicago: American Historical Society, 1930).
  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
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  • General Law

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

Wayne Gard, “Terrell, Charles Vernon,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 17, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/terrell-charles-vernon.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.