Woodman, W. H. (unknown–unknown)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: March 30, 2019

W. H. Woodman, a man of obscure background, became legendary as a criminal lawyer in the Texas Panhandle. While some stories circulated that he had forsaken a palatial home of ease and plenty in order to live his own life, other accounts claimed he was left an orphan and had to battle his way through life at great odds. Woodman himself never talked about his past, declaring that he was "an Englishman by birth, a Virginian by education, and a Texan by the grace of God." Woodman practiced law in Henrietta, Texas, in the 1870s and owned property there; in 1877 he defended a man accused of murder. He moved to Mobeetie in 1879. He was among those who drew up the petition for the organization of Oldham County in 1880, and he served as a legal advisor for its commission. In December 1885 Woodman was elected district attorney for the Panhandle district, replacing Lucius Dills. Among his colleagues were Frank Willis, Temple L. Houston, and James N. Browning. One story relates that on a trip to Tascosa, the attorneys were crossing the flooded Canadian River on foot. Browning and Houston, who were strong swimmers, were helping Willis across the swirling torrent, while Woodman carried the Panhandle's only volume of the 1879 Texas statutes. At midstream the strong current tore the law book from his grasp. As it floated away, Woodman cried out, "Save the statutes of Texas." Willis is said to have replied, "Let the law go, Woodman, and save the district court." In the end both were saved. As district attorney Woodman became involved with the Panhandle Stock Association and events surrounding the Grass-Lease Fight. In appearance Woodman was noted for his long, raven-black hair and faultless dress. It was rumored that he had been a Shakespearean actor. As a lawyer he was remarkable for his memory and his ingenuity in appeals to juries, winning most of his cases with persuasive oratory. His contemporaries later recalled that "If tears were necessary, he could weep volumes, and if biblical verses were advantageous, he could quote Scripture until the sun went down." Throughout his career Woodman denied owning an office brief or studying any kind of reference memoranda. Since he had no law partner and often told tales of early buffalo hunters and ranchers along the Yellowhouse River, Woodman came to be known as the "Lone Wolf of the Yellowhouse." His wife, Arrietta Exine Nation, was a member of the Nation family, and her two sisters married the brothers Josh and William H. (Bee) Hopkins of Laurel Leaf Ranch fame. In later years Woodman moved to Washburn in Armstrong County, where he died in relative obscurity. His grave lay unmarked until 1929, when the Amarillo Bar Association placed a monument at the gravesite.

J. Evetts Haley, Charles Goodnight (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1949). Willie Newbury Lewis, Between Sun and Sod (Clarendon, Texas: Clarendon Press, 1938; rev. ed., College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1976). John L. McCarty, Maverick Town: The Story of Old Tascosa (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1946; enlarged ed. 1968). Millie Jones Porter, Memory Cups of Panhandle Pioneers (Clarendon, Texas: Clarendon Press, 1945). H. C. Randolph, Panhandle Lawyers (Amarillo: Russell Stationery, 1931). Glenn Shirley, Temple Houston (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980). Thomas F. Turner, "Prairie Dog Lawyers," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 2 (1929).


  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • Criminal Law and District Attorneys
  • Peoples
  • English
  • Politics and Government

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

H. Allen Anderson, “Woodman, W. H.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 19, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/woodman-w-h.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 30, 2019