One of the most colorful and controversial figures in Texas history, Sam Houston was born in Virginia on March 2, 1793. He spent much of his youth, however, in the mountains of Tennessee. There, young Houston became acquainted with the Cherokee Indians, and he spent much time with them, an activity which he much preferred over studies or working on the farm.
With the outbreak of the second war with England, Houston enlisted as a private soldier, and was made sergeant of a company. He excelled in the military and quickly won the admiration of his men and his superiors. After receiving three near-mortal wounds at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, he rose to the rank of first lieutenant before resigning in 1818 to study law.
After a short time, he was admitted to the bar and practiced in Lebonon, Tennessee before running for public office. He sought and won public office and was elected to the US Congress in 1823 and again in 1825. In 1827, Houston was elected Governor of Tennessee by a large majority.
While governor and after a brief marriage that ended unfavorably, Houston quietly resigned from Tennessee politics and returned to live with his longtime friends, the Cherokees. There, he remained until 1832 when he moved to Texas along with a few friends.
In Texas, Houston was elected delegate from Nacogdoches to the Convention of 1833 which met at San Felipe. From that time, Houston emerged as a prominent player in the affairs of Texas. In 1835 he was appointed general of the military district east of the Trinity. He became a member of the Consultation of 1835, and of the Convention which met at Washington on the Brazos in 1836 to declare independence from Mexico. It was there that Houston was elected commander-in-chief of the armies of Texas.
Houston immediately took control of the Texas forces after the fall of the Alamo and Goliad and conducted the retreat of the army to the site of the Battle of San Jacinto, where on April 21, 1836, his force defeated Santa Anna and secured Texas long-sought independence.
In the fall of that year, Houston was elected the first President of the Republic of Texas. After serving his term as President, he served in the Congress of the Republic in 1839-40. Then in 1841, Houston was again voted by a large margin to the head of the Texas government.
After statehood in 1845, Houston was elected Senator from Texas to the Congress of the United States. Still later, in 1859, Houston was elected to serve as Governor of the State of Texas.
As Governor in 1861, Houston was strongly opposed to the secession of Texas from the Union. Because he was much in the minority on this issue, Houston was removed from office in March of 1861, ending his illustrious carrier in public service.
Houston retired to the privacy of his home at Huntsville, Texas, where died in July of 1863. He is buried in Huntsville’s Oakwood Cemetery.