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Mathew Duncan Ector (1822-1879)

Presiding Judge, Texas Court of Appeals, 1876-1879

Mathew Duncan Ector was born in Putnam County, Georgia in 1822, and grew up in Meriwether County, Georgia. He was educated at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky before undertaking the private study of law under the tutelage of Georgia state supreme court justice, Hiram B. Warner, in Greenville, Georgia. He was admitted to the Georgia bar in 1844. He was married in 1842, served a term as a Georgia state legislator in 1846, and spent several years farming. Following his wife's death in 1848, he traveled to California before arriving in Texas in 1850.

Ector settled in Henderson, Texas, where he studied law under Judge William Wright Morris. The following year he was admitted to the bar, opened a law office, and married a second time. In 1855 he became the editor of the Henderson Democrat and was elected to the Texas legislature, serving in the sixth legislative session. He was again widowed in 1859.

When the Civil War broke out, Ector enlisted as a private in the Third Texas Cavalry. He soon was elected a first lieutenant and later served as adjutant to General Joseph Lewis Hogg, father of future Texas governor James S. Hogg. Ector fought in numerous battles, distinguished himself, and was promoted to colonel. After Gen. Hogg died of dysentery in 1862, Ector went on to lead his brigade as a general. In 1864 he was wounded in action and his leg was amputated just below the knee. He married for a third time that year.

Following the war Ector returned to Henderson with his new wife. He became a district judge, but was removed the following year as an "impediment to Reconstruction." He relocated to Marshall, where he practiced law.

In 1875, under the Constitutional Convention of that year, Ector was nominated and elected a judge of the Court of Appeals. When the court was organized in May 1876, Ector's fellow judges, C.M. Winkler and John P. White, chose Ector to be the court's presiding judge. Ector died October 29, 1879 while in attendance at the court's Tyler term, and was buried in Marshall. He was remembered by his colleagues for his generosity, dignity, kindness, and strength of character.


In Memoriam: Death of Hon. M. D. Ector. VII, Court of Appeals of the State of Texas (1880).

David V. Stroud. Ector, Mathew Duncan, Handbook of Texas Online (last updated June 6, 2001).