Visit The University of Texas homepage

Samuel A. Willson (1835-1892)

Judge, Texas Court of Appeals, 1882-1891

Samuel A. Willson was born January 9, 1835, in San Augustine, Texas. He read law in the Woodville office of M. Priest and was admitted to the bar in 1852; this required a special legislative act, as he had not yet reached the legal age of twenty-one. He was married the following year; eight children were born of this union, but only one survived to adulthood.

In 1856 Willson was elected district attorney for the Fifteenth Judicial District; he was reelected two years later. He represented Tyler County at the 1861 Secession Convention and when the Civil War broke out, he joined the Texas Infantry, where he was elected a first lieutenant. In 1862 he was promoted to captain and company commander. He was seriously wounded in the battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam), Maryland, was taken prisoner at the battle of Gettysburg, and was held prisoner for a number of months at Fort Delaware.

At war's end Willson returned to Woodville and resumed his law practice. He served as a member of the Constitutional Convention and was elected district judge in 1866. He was among state officials removed as "impediments to Reconstruction" when Texas came under federal military rule the following year, and returned to private legal practice. When the state government was restored, and the Constitution of 1869 had been adopted, Willson was elected district attorney a second time. In 1876 Gov. Richard Coke appointed him one of five commissioners charged with revising and codifying state laws.

Willson was appointed a judge of the Texas Court of Appeals by Gov. O.M. Roberts in May 1882 to fill the vacancy created when C.M. Winkler died. He was subsequently elected to the position and served until February 1891, when he resigned. He accepted the position of reporter for the court five days later and held the office until his death the following year. Willson died of pneumonia January 24, 1892 at his home in Rusk. He was remembered by his peers as a precise, untiring, and devoted judge and as an avid reader and student of many subjects in addition to the law.


Cutrer, Thomas W. Willson, Samuel A, Handbook of Texas Online (last updated May 6, 2003).

In Memoriam, 30 Texas Criminal Reports v-xii (1892).