Wheat, James E. (1887–1968)

By: Diana J. Kleiner

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1996

Updated: March 8, 2019

James E. Wheat, attorney and civic leader, the son of Light N. and Martha Ann (Bryant) Wheat, was born in a log cabin near Chester, Texas, on January 6, 1887. He taught briefly at Menard Chapel before 1906, when he entered Sam Houston Normal Institute. He graduated in 1908 and taught for one year at Indian Creek before entering the University of Texas Law School in 1909. In 1912 he served as superintendent of schools at Johnson City. He graduated in 1914 and served as an Ex-Students Association councilman and permanent president of the 1914 law class. Wheat founded the firm of Wheat, Wheat, and Stafford and worked as a Tyler county attorney from 1914 to 1918. He was the mayor of Woodville, president of the Woodville School board of trustees from 1920 to 1949, helped to organize the Tyler County Dogwood Festival in 1939, and served as its president into the 1950s. Active in Democratic politics, he served as delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1936 and was a presidential elector in 1944. He was a member of the State Democratic Executive Committee from 1934 to 1938, secretary from 1949 to 1950, and chairman from 1950 to 1952. Wheat also served on the state prison board from 1942 to 1948, supporting reforms that led to the creation of the Texas Department of Corrections. He was a director of the Houston branch of the Federal Reserve Bank from 1944 to 1949. He was director of the East Texas Chamber of Commerce from 1947 to 1950, twice director of the State Bar of Texas, founded the first Tyler County Boy Scout troop, and served as director of the Trinity-Neches council. A Mason, he was the first president of the Texas State Historical Survey Committee (later the Texas Historical Commission) beginning in 1953 and a writer of numerous historical articles. During World War I Wheat was a captain in the Eighth Division; in World War II he was a captain in the Texas State Guard. On September 16, 1917, Wheat married Ruby Rotan, with whom he had three children. He died on October 10, 1968, and was buried at Magnolia Cemetery in Woodville. Wheat Junior High School in Woodville is named in his memory.

Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Who's Who in the South and Southwest, 1956. Mrs. Will E. Wilson and Deolece Parmelee, The First Quarter Century (Austin: Texas Historical Foundation, 1979).


  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Civic Leaders
  • Lawyers
  • General Law

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

Diana J. Kleiner, “Wheat, James E.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 28, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/wheat-james-e.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1996
March 8, 2019