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George Whitfield Terrell (1803-1846)

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Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the Republic of Texas, 1840-1842

George Whitfield Terrell, who served in leadership positions under four presidents of the Republic of Texas, was born in Nelson County, Kentucky in 1803. When he was a child his family moved to Tennessee; little is known about his early years. He was admitted to the Tennessee bar in 1827 and was married around the same year. He and his wife had three children, one of whom died in infancy. Sam Houston, then governor of Tennessee, appointed Terrell district attorney in 1828. Terrell served as a member of the Tennessee legislature from 1829 to 1836. In 1837 he left Tennessee and lived briefly in Mississippi.

Terrell arrived in Texas around 1839 and settled near San Augustine. He also resided at later dates in Nacogdoches and Linwood. In 1840, President Mirabeau S. Lamar appointed him district judge of the First Judicial District, which automatically made him an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the Republic. He was appointed secretary of state of the Republic in 1841 under David G. Burnet, but declined the position. He was named attorney general of the Republic by his old friend Sam Houston in 1842. He held the position of Indian commissioner from 1842 to 1844 and negotiated a treaty between the Republic and nine Indian tribes at Bird's Fort near Fort Worth in September 1843. In 1844 he was appointed chargé d'affairs to France, Great Britain, and Spain, and continued in that position under President Anson Jones. When he returned to Texas the following year, he was again appointed Indian commissioner.

Terrell died of pulmonary disease in Austin on May 13, 1846 at the age of forty-three. He was buried in Austin's Oakwood Cemetery.

Notable opinions

Ex parte De Bland, Dallam 406 (Tex. 1841) (finding no jurisdiction to hear case involving validity of clerk of lower court's appointment rather than election, as Supreme Court has only appellate jurisdiction).


Jaschke, Melvin B. Terrell, George Whitfield, Handbook of Texas Online (last updated June 6, 2001).

Obituary of George W. Terrell, Texas Democrat, May 20, 1846. The Texas Terrell Project (visited July 13, 2006).

Smith, Michael Berryman. George Whitfield Terrell, The Texas Terrell Project (visited July 13, 2006).

Extended bibliography

Two Hundred and Fifty Years, History of Alto, Texas, 1686-1936, 17. Nell M. Cole, compiler (Alto, Texas: Alto Herald, 1936).

Speer, Ocie. Texas Jurists 550 (Austin, Texas: the author, 1936).

Additional information available in Southwestern Historical Quarterly as follow:
Volume 9, page 32, 33, 36
Volume 15, page 327, 328
Volume 16, page 87, 91
Volume 19, page 205, 295
Volume 20, page 61, 72, 73, 386, 394, 395, 400
Volume 25, page 153n, 154, 159, 160, 165n
Volume 26, page 187, 193, 199
Volume 32, page 351
Volume 44, page 109n
Volume 60, page 3, 17
Volume 67, page 123
Volume 69, page 150, 312

4 Biographies of Leading Texans 470. Archives Division, Texas State Library (Austin, Texas).