Walton, William Martin (1832–1915)

By: Thomas W. Cutrer

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: August 1, 1995

William Martin (Buck) Walton, attorney, Confederate army officer, and politician, was born on in Canton, Mississippi, on January 17, 1832, the son of Samuel Walther and Mary (Wilkerson Loe) Walton. At an early age he moved with his parents to Carroll County, Mississippi, on the Indian frontier. Walton's father died in 1839, and in 1842 his mother married B. C. Strange. After a brief career as a school teacher Walton enrolled in the University of Virginia in 1849 but returned to Carroll County in 1851. There he studied law in the office of James Z. George, later a Confederate general and United States senator, and was admitted to the bar in 1852. Walton then moved to Texas by way of Arkansas and Indian Territory, arriving in Austin on February 19, 1853. There, after a term as deputy district clerk, he established a partnership with Andrew Jackson Hamilton. This partnership lasted from 1853 until 1857, when Hamilton was elected to Congress. In addition to practicing law Walton, a slave owner, farmed and, for a while, prospected for gold on the Llano River. In 1854 Walton married Letitia A. Watkins of Carrolton County, Mississippi. In the fall of 1858 he established a partnership with Sebron G. Sneed that lasted until the outbreak of the Civil War. An ardent secessionist, Walton served through the first year of the war as private secretary to Governor Francis R. Lubbock. On March 2, 1862, Walton enlisted as a private in Capt. William Rust's Company B of Col. George Washington Carter's Twenty-first Texas Cavalry (also known as the First Texas Lancers) and was soon elected first lieutenant. In Arkansas this regiment was united with two other regiments to become part of Parsons's Brigade, and Walton saw much service as commander of a picked band of scouts near Helena. "The expeditions I went on," he later wrote, "were at times full of danger-and the men had to have the eye of an eagle and the tread of a panther as well as the endurance of a camel." In the spring of 1863 he commanded the vanguard of Maj. Gen. John S. Marmaduke's Cape Girardeau [Missouri] raid. Walton was later promoted to major and attached to the staff of Lt. Gen. Theophilus Hunter Holmes, commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department, and stationed at Little Rock, Arkansas, until after the battle of Helena and the Confederate evacuation of Little Rock. Walton was then furloughed but returned to the army to take part in the Red River campaign. He arrived too late for the battle of Mansfield, but led his company at the battles of Pleasant Hill and Yellow Bayou. Walton spent the remainder of 1864 attached to Brig. Gen. Alexander Watkins Terrell's regiment in south Louisiana and then returned to Texas in the winter of 1865. That spring he learned of his wife's severe illness and left the army without leave. Although threatened with punishment, he was not arrested due to the breakup of the Confederacy.

Impoverished by the war and barred from the practice of law, Walton was, in his words, "in a bad row of stumps." At first he hunted and fished for a living, marketing his kill and catch. In 1866 he was elected attorney general of Texas but was removed from office by United States officials as "an impediment to Reconstruction." With the end of military rule, however, he returned to the practice of law. During this period Walton's partners included W. P. de Normandie, Jonathan A. Green, Robert J. Hill, and his son, Newton S. Walton, who later served as Austin city attorney. After 1899 Walton practiced alone until his retirement in 1904. "I suppose no lawyer in Texas or in the South has defended more men charged with murder than I have," he later wrote. From 1866 until 1872 he served as chairman of the state's Democratic executive committee. Walton's wife died in 1914, and he spent much of his last two years compiling his memoirs, which, in 1965, came into the possession of the Austin History Center. Walton died in Austin on July 1, 1915, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery. In 1965 the Friends of the Austin Public Library published Walton's memoirs as An Epitome of My Life. Walton's second son, Early, was a well known New York physician.

Austin Statesman, July 1, 1915. Anne J. Bailey, Between the Enemy and Texas: Parsons's Texas Cavalry in the Civil War (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1989). Lewis E. Daniell, Types of Successful Men in Texas (Austin: Von Boeckmann, 1890). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • General Law
Time Periods:
  • Civil War

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

Thomas W. Cutrer, “Walton, William Martin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/walton-william-martin.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 1, 1995

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