Considered by many to be the only peer of Sam Houston in the esteem, admiration, and love of the people of Texas, Thomas Jefferson Rusk actually surpassed Houston in almost everything but fame.
Born December 5, 1803, at Pendleton, South Carolina, Rusk was influenced early in life by John C. Calhoun, who encouraged him to study law. In 1832, after several partners in a gold mining scheme absconded with the company money, Rusk decided to follow them to Texas. He never recovered the money but decided to stay in Texas.
In the fall of 1835 he raised a company of volunteers at Nacogdoches, and was soon appointed Inspector General of the Texas Army. A signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, he was elected Secretary of War. During the Battle of San Jacinto he took command of the charge after General Houston was wounded and remained in command of the Army until October 1836.
After serving in the Second Congress of the Republic, Rusk refused to seek election for the Presidency. He became Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court in 1838. In 1839 he endangered his friendship with Houston by commanding the troops that removed the Cherokee from Texas. He continued his law practice in partnership with J. Pinckney Henderson, and was elected President of the Annexation Convention of 1845.
In 1846 Rusk received more votes than Houston as both were elected Texas’ first two U.S. Senators. A strong voice for Texas, Rusk was able to secure a $10 million payment for Texas’ New Mexican territory. In 1856 there was support for his candidacy for President of the United States, and in 1857 was elected President Pro Tempore of the Senate. But after his wife’s death, he took his own life at his home in Nacogdoches on July 29, 1857. He was a member of Milam Lodge No. 2 at Nacogdoches.
* From The Texas Mason
By Pete Normand, PM
Texas Lodge of Research
* The Texas Masons
The Fraternity of Ancient Free
& Accepted Masons in the History of Texas
by Pete Normand, © 1986
(Book may be ordered from
Brazos Valley Masonic Library and Museum Assn.
P.O. Box 1300
College Station, TX 77841
Price: $6.00 Postpaid)