David Thomas, signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, ad interim attorney general, and acting secretary of war for the Republic of Texas, was born in Tennessee about 1801, came to Texas in 1835, and he joined the United States Independent Volunteer Cavalry company, organized at Nacogdoches on December 10, 1835. At the request of Francis W. Johnson, the Military Affairs Committee of the General Council recommended a volunteer Matamoros expedition in January 1836, and Thomas was commissioned first lieutenant for the expedition. He was one of the four representatives of Refugio Municipality at the Convention of 1836 at Washington-on-the-Brazos and there signed the Declaration of Independence. Apparently he was a lawyer, for on March 17 the convention elected him ad interim attorney general of the republic. Later, when Secretary of War Thomas J. Rusk left the cabinet to join Sam Houston's army, Thomas was named acting secretary of war. He thus held two government positions at the same time. On or about April 16, 1836, Thomas was mortally wounded by the accidental discharge of a firearm while aboard the steamship Cayuga en route from Lynch's Ferry to Galveston. Settler John J. Linn, who was at Galveston when the ship arrived, implied that Thomas died there three days after being shot. According to other claims, however, he remained on board the Cayuga and arrived at the San Jacinto battlefield about April 22. In a third version he died on board the Cayuga and was buried near the home of Vice President Lorenzo de Zavala on Buffalo Bayou, but it was also reported that he was taken off the ship and died in Zavala's home. In 1932 the state of Texas erected a monument to the memory of Thomas at a spot designated by Adina de Zavala, granddaughter of Lorenzo de Zavala, as the gravesite in the old Zavala cemetery. In 1936 Thomas's name was also included on a monument in Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site to the memory of "those courageous souls, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention held here on March 1–17, 1836, who declared Texas free, organized a republic, and framed a constitution."
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Harold Schoen, comp., Monuments Erected by the State of Texas to Commemorate the Centenary of Texas Independence (Austin: Commission of Control for Texas Centennial Celebrations, 1938). Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941).
Republic of Texas
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
L. W. Kemp,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 15, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
January 28, 2020