Woods, James D. (1834–1905)

By: Aragorn Storm Miller and R. Matt Abigail

Type: Biography

Published: October 22, 2014

James D. Woods, lawyer, Confederate officer, state legislator, and judge, son of Levi S. and Arantha J. (Dinwiddie) Woods, was born in Carroll County, Tennessee, on October 24, 1834. He was educated at Center College in Danville, Kentucky, and went on to study law at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee. He was admitted to the Tennessee bar in 1857. In that same year, Woods married Sue J. Porter in Caledonia, Tennessee. This couple had three sons and one daughter. Following the death of his wife in 1869, Woods married Amanda Ellison Coffey. They had two sons and one daughter.

In 1858 Woods relocated with his family to Texas and settled in Sherman in Grayson County. Here Woods practiced law in the firm of Diamond and Woods and later, in the firm of Woods, Fears, and Wilkinson. In 1861 he was elected representative for Grayson County to the House of the Ninth Texas Legislature. During the Civil War, Woods organized Company C of the Sixteenth Texas Cavalry Regiment. He achieved some recognition when, at the battle of Vicksburg, he temporarily assumed command of the entire regiment after his commanding officer was severely wounded.

Following the war, Woods returned to Sherman and resumed his law practice. He assumed a leading role in local politics. In 1866 he won election as district attorney for the Twentieth Judicial District, and in 1872 he was elected mayor of Sherman. In 1873 he was appointed commissioner of the Sherman, Wichita, and Panhandle Railway. Woods later served as a state senator from January 10, 1893, to January 10, 1899, representing Grayson and Cook counties during the Twenty-third, Twenty-fourth, and Twenty-fifth state legislatures. During the Twenty-fourth Texas Legislature, he was elected President Pro Tempore of the Senate. Afterwards, he served as a county judge from 1898 to 1902 before being elected state representative yet again in 1903. He served in the House of the Twenty-eighth and Twenty-ninth Texas legislatures from 1903 through 1905.

In addition to political office, Woods served fifteen years as president of the Grayson County Old Settlers Association. He was also a founding member and commander of the Mildred Lee Camp Chapter of the United Confederate Veterans, a Mason, and an Odd Fellow. Woods died in office on October 16, 1905, and was buried in Sherman’s West Hill Cemetery. Woods Street, in Sherman, is named in his honor.

Dallas Morning News, October 17, 1905. Genealogical Biographies of Landowners of Grayson County, Texas from 1836 through 1869 (Sherman, Texas: Oak Room Emporium, 1967). Legislative Reference Library of Texas: J. D. Woods (http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/mobile/memberDisplay.cfm?memberID=3007), accessed July 15, 2014. E. H. Loughery, Texas State Government: A Volume of Biographical Sketches and Passing Comment (Austin: McLeod & Jackson Printers, 1897).

  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • Criminal Law and District Attorneys
  • General Law
  • Ninth Legislature (1861-1863)
  • House
  • Twenty-third Legislature (1893)
  • Twenty-fourth Legislature (1895)
  • Twenty-fifth Legislature (1897)
  • Twenty-eighth Legislature (1903)
  • Twenty-ninth Legislature (1905-1906)
  • Senate
Time Periods:
  • Civil War
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Progressive Era

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

Aragorn Storm Miller and R. Matt Abigail, “Woods, James D.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 30, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/woods-james-d.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 22, 2014

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: