James Pinckney Henderson

James Pinckney Henderson (March 31, 1808 – June 4, 1858) was an American and Republic of Texas lawyer, politician, and soldier, and the first governor of the State of Texas.

James Pinckney Henderson
James Pinckney Henderson-p.jpg
United States Senator
from Texas
In office
November 9, 1857 – June 4, 1858
Appointed byElisha M. Pease
Preceded byThomas Jefferson Rusk
Succeeded byMatthias Ward
1st Governor of Texas
In office
February 19, 1846 – December 21, 1847
LieutenantAlbert Clinton Horton
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byGeorge Tyler Wood
Minister to England and France Republic of Texas
In office
Personal details
BornMarch 31, 1808
Lincolnton, North Carolina
DiedJune 4, 1858(1858-06-04) (aged 50)
Washington, D.C.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Frances Cox Henderson
Alma materUniversity of North Carolina
OccupationLawyer, diplomat

Early yearsEdit

He was born in Lincolnton, North Carolina, on March 31, 1808, to Lawson Henderson and his wife Elizabeth Carruth Henderson. His birthplace Woodside, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.[1][2] After graduating from Pleasant Retreat Academy, Henderson enrolled as a law student at the University of North Carolina. Upon his graduation, he studied 18 hours a day to pass his bar examination,[3] and was admitted to the North Carolina State Bar in 1829.[4]

Military service and move to TexasEdit

Shortly after becoming a lawyer, Henderson served in the North Carolina militia, rising to the rank of colonel. In 1835, Colonel Henderson moved to Canton, Mississippi, where he opened a law practice.[4]

His attention soon turned to Texas' struggle against Mexico. Henderson began making speeches to raise money and an army to go to the aid of the Texas cause.[3] Henderson and several volunteers traveled to Texas hoping to participate in the fight for independence. By the time the group arrived in June 1836, many of the major events had already taken place. The Texas Declaration of Independence had already been signed on March 2,[5] and David G. Burnet was elected interim President of the new Republic of Texas on March 10.[6] The Alamo had fallen on March 6,[7] and Sam Houston had been victorious on April 21 at the Battle of San Jacinto.[8] On May 14, 1836, Antonio López de Santa Anna has signed the Treaties of Velasco agreeing to withdraw his troops from Texas.[9] Interim President Burnet commissioned Henderson as a brigadier general in the Texas Army, with orders to return to North Carolina to raise troops to serve in Texas. This Henderson did at his own expense.[10]

Government service in the RepublicEdit

Sam Houston became President of the Republic of Texas on September 5, 1836, and appointed Henderson as the republic's attorney general. In December of that same year, Henderson was named by Houston to replace recently deceased Stephen F. Austin[11] as secretary of state for the republic. In early 1837, Houston decreed Henderson as minister from the Republic of Texas to France at the Tuileries Palace, and to England at the Court of St. James's. During his tenure as minister, he was successful in securing the recognition of the independence of the Republic of Texas, and negotiated trade agreements with both countries.[10]

Governor of Texas, war with Mexico, United States SenatorEdit

In 1840, Henderson returned to Texas and set up a private law practice in San Augustine. He was sent to Washington, DC, in 1844 to work in coordination with Isaac Van Zandt to secure the annexation of Texas to the United States. Although the annexation treaty was signed, it was rejected by the United States Senate, and Henderson was recalled to Texas.[3][12] An annexation treaty approved the United States Senate was finally passed on December 29, 1845.[13]

In preparation for anticipated statehood, the Texas gubernatorial election, 1845, elected Henderson as its first governor. He took office on February 19, 1846. When the Mexican–American War broke out in April of that year, Henderson took a leave of absence as governor to command a Texas volunteer cavalry division. He served with the rank of major general under Zachary Taylor. He returned home to resume his duties as governor, but did not run for a second term. He later served in the United States Senate from November 9, 1857, until his death on June 4, 1858.[4]

Personal life and deathEdit

Henderson's cenotaph at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC

Henderson met his future wife, Frances Cox, when he represented the Republic of Texas as a minister to France and England. Cox was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and educated in Europe. She was a multilingual literary translator.[14] On October 30, 1839, they were wed at St George's, Hanover Square. In 1840, the new couple established a residence and law office in San Augustine, Texas. The couple had five children, of whom daughters Martha, Fanny, and Julia lived to adulthood.[15]

Henderson died in Washington, DC, in 1858 while he was serving as senator for the State of Texas. He is buried at the Texas State Cemetery.[16] After his death during the Civil War years, his widow and daughters moved to Europe. Martha died at age 18. Fanny married into the Austrian aristocracy. Julia married an American sugar-plantation owner. Frances Cox Henderson died in 1897, and is buried at Rosedale Cemetery in New Jersey, where she had been living with daughter Julia and son-in-law Edward White Adams.


Henderson County,[17] which was established in 1846, and the city of Henderson, founded in 1843 in Rusk County, are named in his honor. James Pinckney Henderson Elementary School, in Houston, is named for him.[18]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ Survey and Planning Unit Staff (April 1972). "Woodside" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places - Nomination and Inventory. North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office. Retrieved 2015-01-01.
  3. ^ a b c Lynch, James Daniel (1885). The Bench and Bar of Texas. Book on Demand. ISBN 978-5-87207-166-2.
  4. ^ a b c Elliott, Claude. "James Pinckney Henderson". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  5. ^ "Texas Declaration of Independence". Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  6. ^ Wade, Mary Dodson (2008). Texas History. Heinemann-Raintree. p. 20. ISBN 978-1-4329-1158-4.
  7. ^ "Battle of the Alamo". Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  8. ^ "Battle of San Jacinto". Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  9. ^ "Treaties of Velasco". Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  10. ^ a b Phares, Ross (1999). The Governors of Texas. Firebird Press. pp. 83–84. ISBN 978-1-56554-505-2.
  11. ^ Haley, James L (2003). Stephen F. Austin and the Founding of Texas. Rosen Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-8239-5738-5.
  12. ^ "May 29, 1844 Henderson letter to Houston". Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  13. ^ "Texas Annexation Treaty". Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  14. ^ Haley, James L (2006). Passionate Nation. Free Press. p. 262. ISBN 978-0-684-86291-0.
  15. ^ Farrell, Mary D. "France Cox Henderson". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  16. ^ "James Pinckney Henderson". Texas State Cemetery. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  17. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. pp. 154.
  18. ^ Henderson Elementary School, Houston, Texas

External linksEdit

Party political offices
First Democratic nominee for Governor of Texas
Title next held by
Hardin Richard Runnels
Diplomatic posts
New title
Mission Established
Texas Minister to the United Kingdom and France
Succeeded by
Political offices
New title
State Admitted to Union
Governor of Texas
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by United States Senator for Texas
Served alongside: Sam Houston
Succeeded by