Royal T. Wheeler, chief justice of the state Supreme Court, was born in Vermont in 1810. He moved with his family to Ohio and there prepared himself successfully for the bar. In 1837 he moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas, and became the law partner of Williamson S. Oldham. In 1839 Wheeler married Emily Walker of Fayetteville and soon afterward moved to San Augustine, Texas, where he established a law partnership with Kenneth L. Anderson, vice president of the republic. In 1842 Wheeler was appointed district attorney for the Fifth Judicial District, and in 1845 he became district judge and a member of the Texas Supreme Court, then composed of the district judges sitting en banc. With the organization of state government in 1845 he was appointed associate justice of the state Supreme Court. In 1851 and 1856 he was reelected to the same position. In December 1857 Wheeler was chosen to succeed John Hemphill as chief justice, a position he held until his death. In addition, Wheeler became professor of law at Austin College in 1858. Wheeler was said to have an amiable and friendly disposition, to be a sound lawyer with a penetrating mind, and as a judge to base his decisions on principle and an acute understanding of fact. Politically Wheeler held to the principles of the old Whig party. But he advocated annexation to the Union and in 1861 embraced the secession movement as the best alternative for the South. During his later years, as hope for Confederate victory waned, Wheeler was inclined to fits of melancholy. On April 9, 1864, he committed suicide in Washington County. Wheeler County, organized in 1879, was named for him, as was its county seat.
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James D. Lynch, The Bench and Bar of Texas (St. Louis, 1885). Robert F. Miller, "Early Presbyterianism in Texas as Seen by Rev. James Weston Miller, D.D," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 19 (October 1915). 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).
Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
Politics and Government
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
H. Allen Anderson,
“Wheeler, Royal T.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 20, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
January 1, 1996