J. Pinckney Henderson was an active proponent for the annexation of Texas into the United States. Partly in recognition of his efforts toward statehood, Henderson was elected Texas’ first governor when it became a state in 1845.
Henderson was born in North Carolina on March 31, 1808. He studied law and was admitted to the bar at the age of twenty-one. Soon afterward, he joined the North Carolina militia, where he later became colonel of a regiment. He was living in Mississippi in 1835, however, when he decided to join the revolution in Texas.
When Henderson arrived in Texas in June, 1836, independence had already been won at the Battle of San Jacinto. After a trip to North Carolina to recruit for the army of the Republic of Texas, he returned to Texas. He served briefly as attorney general in Sam Houston’s cabinet. Then, upon the death of Stephen Austin in late December, 1836, Henderson was appointed to replace Austin as secretary of state for the new republic. Remarkably, Henderson was still only twenty-eight years old.
As minister to England and France the following year, Henderson was able to secure trade agreements with both countries, and ultimately, recognition of Texas as an independent nation.
After returning to Texas in 1840, Henderson practiced law in San Augustine. He became a member of the Convention of 1845, and when Texas became a state, he was elected its first governor.
When war with Mexico broke out as a result of annexation, Henderson took personal command of a regiment of Texas’ troops. He led a regiment at the Battle of Monterrey and became a commissioner to negotiate the surrender of that city.
After the war, Henderson completed his term as governor but declined to run for re-election. After returning to his private law practice for almost a decade, he was elected to a term in the U. S. Senate from late 1857 until his death on June 4, 1858 in Washington, DC, where he was buried. In 1930 his remains were re-interred in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.
Henderson County and the town of Henderson, both in east Texas, were named in his honor.