Terrell, George Butler (1862–1947)

By: Thomas Lloyd Miller

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: August 1, 1995

George Butler Terrell, state legislator, United States congressman, and Texas commissioner of agriculture, was born at Linwood, near the site of present Alto in Cherokee County, Texas, on December 5, 1862, the son of Sam Houston and Julia (Butler) Terrell and the grandson of George Whitfield Terrell. He attended public schools, Sam Houston Normal Institute, and Baylor University. He reportedly earned a teaching certificate at Baylor and at the age of thirty-four received a law degree. From 1896 to 1903 he taught school in Cherokee County. He served as a member of the State Teachers Examining Board (1897 and 1902), the Summer Normal Board (1897 and 1904), the State Normal Board (1902), and the State Textbook Commission (1903). He also engaged in farming and stock raising at Alto. In 1904 Terrell was a presidential elector for the Democratic ticket of Alton B. Parker and Henry G. Davis. He represented Cherokee County in the Texas House of Representatives in 1899–1903, 1907–13, and 1917–21. He was elected Texas commissioner of agriculture in 1920 and held the office from 1921 to 1931. In 1930 he was again elected to the Texas House of Representatives. In the legislature he was concerned with laws on agriculture and secured the establishment of four experiment stations (see TEXAS AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENT STATION). He sponsored a law requiring the grading of fruits and vegetables and a law requiring the teaching of agriculture and domestic science in the teacher-training colleges. In 1932, as a Democrat, Terrell was elected United States congressman-at-large from Texas. He soon found himself opposed to most New Deal measures. He was outspoken in his opposition to the National Recovery Administration. When he cast the only vote in the House of Representatives against the bill extending the life of the Civil Works Administration, the city council of his hometown, Alto, sent a telegram to President Franklin D. Roosevelt declaring that Terrell did not represent their feelings. Terrell was stricken with paralysis in May 1934 and later that same month declared that he would not be a candidate for reelection. He returned to Alto and resumed farming. In 1936 he suffered his only electoral defeat when he lost his race for state agriculture commissioner to the incumbent, J. E. McDonald. Terrell married Allie Minchum Turney on September 10, 1896; they had six children. He died at his home at Linwood on April 18, 1947. His funeral was held at the Palestine Baptist Church, and he was buried in the Old Palestine Cemetery, near Alto. Among Terrell's relatives who also held public office in Texas were Alexander Watkins Terrell, a cousin, and Charles Vernon Terrell. His brother Henry Berryman Terrell and nephew S. H. Terrell both served as state comptroller, and his son, J. Turney Terrell, served with him in the state legislature in 1931–33.

Biographical Directory of the American Congress (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1859-). Cherokee County History (Jacksonville, Texas: Cherokee County Historical Commission, 1986). Dallas Morning News, February 6, 7, May 30, 1934, April 19, 20, 1947. Members of the Texas Legislature, 1846–1962 (Austin, 1962). Hattie Joplin Roach, The Hills of Cherokee (1952; rpt., Fort Worth, 1976). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
Time Periods:
  • Texas in the 1920s

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

Thomas Lloyd Miller, “Terrell, George Butler,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 25, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/terrell-george-butler.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 1, 1995