Walker, Moses B. (1819–1895)

By: Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: February 16, 2019

Moses B. Walker, Supreme Court justice, was born on July 16, 1819, in Fairfield County, Ohio, the son of John and Mary (Davis) Walker. Henry Winter Davis, the United States Representative from Maryland who played a major role at the onset of Reconstruction, was his first cousin. Walker attended Woodward High School in Cincinnati, Augusta College in Kentucky, and Yale College. After three years at Yale, he attended Cincinnati Law School and read law in Springfield, Ohio, before opening an office in Dayton, Ohio, and practicing law from 1846 until 1861. During this period he was elected to a term in the Ohio Senate (1850–51). At the outbreak of the Civil War, Walker volunteered and became colonel of the Thirty-first Ohio Volunteer Infantry. As a member of Gen. George Thomas's Army of the Cumberland throughout the war, he took part in virtually every major battle in which that army was engaged except Missionary Ridge. He was wounded three times at Chickamauga and reportedly had to be tied in the saddle due to fatigue and loss of blood. He was brevetted brigadier general of volunteers, served in the Atlanta Campaign, and concluded the war with the rank of brevet lieutenant colonel in the regular army as well as his volunteer command. At the end of the war Walker left the army briefly and ran unsuccessfully, in 1866, for the United States House of Representatives. He returned to active duty in 1868 and took part in the military occupation of Texas. In April 1869 Gen. Joseph J. Reynolds appointed him judge of the Fourth Judicial District. He held that position only until November 27, 1869, when he was appointed to the state Supreme Court to replace Albert H. Latimer. When the Constitution of 1869 went into effect, Governor Edmund J. Davis appointed him an associate justice on the reorganized three-man Supreme Court, on July 11, 1870. As a member of that court in 1873 Walker wrote the opinion in the "Semicolon Court" case, which ruled invalid the election in which Richard Coke defeated Davis for the governorship. The ruling did not overturn Coke's victory, however, and when Coke appointed a new five-man Supreme Court in January 1874, under the terms of an 1873 constitutional amendment, Walker lost his position on the bench. Immediately upon the end of his tenure on the court, Walker left Texas and moved to Kenton, Ohio, where he resumed law practice. After serious injury in a fall in December 1879, he retired and lived on a farm in the suburbs of Kenton. Walker was married twice: to Maria Van Skyack in 1842 and, following her death in 1853, to Mary Hitt in 1855. With his first wife he had three children, and with his second, eight. Walker held the highest office in the Texas state government attained by any "carpetbagger" during the era of Reconstruction. He came with the army, almost certainly with no intention to stay in the state, but his motivation appears to have been primarily that of a Unionist patriot. During the war he had made speeches intended to build support for the Union military effort. As a lawyer and judge he was, in the words of James R. Norvell, who served on the Supreme Court nearly a century later, "a lawyer of ability [who] possessed some literary talent. Even the Semicolon decision demonstrated that he was a skilled technician." Moses B. Walker died at Kenton, Ohio, in 1895.

J. Fletcher Brennan, Biographical Cyclopaedia and Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Men, with an Historical Sketch, of the State of Ohio (Cincinnati: J. C. Yorston, 1879). Harbert Davenport, History of the Supreme Court of the State of Texas (Austin: Southern Law Book Publishers, 1917). James R. Norvell, "The Reconstruction Courts of Texas, 1867–1873," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 62 (1958).


  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Politics and Government
  • Judges

Time Periods:

  • Reconstruction

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

Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell, “Walker, Moses B.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 04, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/walker-moses-b.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 16, 2019