Vinson, William Ashton (1874–1951)

By: Ann Hornak

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: July 21, 2017

William Ashton Vinson, attorney, son of John and Mary Elizabeth (Brice) Vinson, was born on a farm near White Oak, South Carolina, on December 22, 1874. After the family moved to a farm near Sherman, Texas, in October 1887, he attended public school in Sherman for two years and then entered Austin College Preparatory School. In 1896 he graduated from Austin College with second honors in his class. He subsequently studied law in the office of Judge W. W. Wilkins in Sherman, took the bar examination in open court, and received his license to practice. In 1899 Vinson became a partner in Wilkins, Vinson, and Batsell, where he remained until 1909. He married Ethel Clayton Turner of Sherman on December 19, 1900; they had three daughters. On September 19, 1909, he and his family moved to Houston, where he joined the firm of Lane, Walters, and Stoney. He remained with this firm until 1915, when he formed a law partnership with E. W. Townes under the name of Townes and Vinson. In 1917 after the death of Townes, James A. Elkins, who was then living in Huntsville, moved to Houston and helped Vinson form Vinson, Elkins, and Weems, which became the largest law firm in Houston and one of the largest in the nation. Vinson was a director and general counsel of the Great Southern Life Insurance Company. In 1940 he was appointed by the Texas Supreme Court to serve on a committee to prepare a code of civil procedure for all the Texas civil courts. He was also a member of the Texas committee on interpretation of rules of civil procedure. He served as a member of the library board of the Houston Public Library and was president of the board from 1926 until he retired in April 1951. He was also active in the establishment of the USO centers in Houston. Vinson died at his home on October 26, 1951, and was buried in Forest Park Cemetery, Houston.

Marcellus E. Foster and Alfred Jones, eds., South and Southeast Texas (n.p.: Jas. O. Jones, 1928). Clarence R. Wharton, ed., Texas under Many Flags (5 vols., Chicago: American Historical Society, 1930).


  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • General Law

Time Periods:

  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Great Depression


  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

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

Ann Hornak, “Vinson, William Ashton,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 28, 2022,

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July 21, 2017

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