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Willson, Samuel A. (1835–1892)

Thomas W. Cutrer Biography Entry

Samuel A. Willson, Confederate soldier, was born on January 9, 1835, in San Augustine, Texas. After reading law in the offices of M. Priest of Woodville he was admitted to the bar in 1852 by a special act of the legislature that allowed him to practice before his twenty-first birthday. The following year he married Susan E. Priest of Woodville; they had eight children. The only son who survived to adulthood, Samuel Priest Willson, became a prominent Cherokee County attorney. Willson was elected district attorney of the Fifteenth Judicial District in 1856, at the age of twenty-one, and was reelected in 1858. He represented Tyler County in the state Secession Convention in 1861. With the outbreak of the Civil War he was elected first lieutenant of Capt. Philip A. Work's Company F of Col. Louis T. Wigfall's First Texas Infantry regiment in what was to become Hood's Texas Brigade. In 1862 Willson was promoted to captain and company commander. He saw action in the principal battles of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. He was severely wounded at the battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam), Maryland, and was taken prisoner at the battle of Gettysburg. After the war Willson returned to Woodville, where he resumed his legal practice. He was elected district judge in 1866 but resigned in 1868, when the state was placed under military rule. That year he moved to Rusk, Texas, where, in 1879 Governor Richard Coke appointed him to a committee to codify the laws of Texas under the Constitution of 1876. In the spring of 1882 Governor Oran M. Roberts appointed Willson to the Court of Appeals, an appointment confirmed by election that fall. Judge Willson retired from the bench on February 1, 1891. He died on January 24, 1892, and is buried at Rusk.

Sidney S. Johnson, Texans Who Wore the Gray (Tyler, Texas, 1907). Marcus J. Wright, comp., and Harold B. Simpson, ed., Texas in the War, 1861–1865 (Hillsboro, Texas: Hill Junior College Press, 1965).

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

Thomas W. Cutrer, “Willson, Samuel A.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 15, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995