While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


L. W. Kemp

HOWARD, VOLNEY ERSKINE (1809–1889). Volney Erskine Howard, lawyer, legal scholar, and legislator, was born in Maine on October 22, 1809. He attended Bloomfield Academy and Waterville College. In 1832 he moved to Brandon, Mississippi, where he studied law and was admitted to the bar. In 1836, as a member of the House of Representatives of the Mississippi legislature, he carried the state's electoral vote for Martin Van Buren to Washington, where he remained some weeks and married Catherine Elizabeth Gooch of Massachusetts. In 1837 he was appointed reporter for the Mississippi court of errors and appeals. For several years Howard was editor of the Mississippian, a Democratic paper published at Vicksburg. The Mississippian opposed the passage of a bill for the state to guarantee issues by the Union Bank of Vicksburg. Howard was severely criticized for his stand, and during the heated debates on the subject he fought duels with Sergeant S. Prentill, Alexander G. McNutt, governor of Mississippi, and Hiram G. Runnels, governor of Mississippi from 1833 to 1835 and president of the bank. In the duel with Runnels Howard was severely injured. In 1840, in conjunction with Anderson Hutchinson, Howard published A Digest of the Laws of Mississippi.He also published seven volumes of Mississippi Law Reports, 1834–1844 (1839–44).

In 1840 he was defeated for election to the House of the Twenty-seventh Congress. Shortly afterwards he moved to New Orleans, where he practiced law until December 1844, when he moved to San Antonio, Texas. He was a delegate to the Convention of 1845 and represented Bexar County in the House of the First Legislature. On February 27, 1846, Governor James Pinckney Henderson appointed Howard attorney general of Texas, but he declined the appointment. Howard was a representative from Texas in the House of the Thirty-first and Thirty-second congresses but was defeated for reelection in 1852 by Peter Hansborough Bell. President Franklin Pierce appointed Howard attorney to the Land Commission of California, but he resigned after a few months to practice law in San Francisco. After moving to Sacramento in 1858 and to Los Angeles in 1861, he served as district attorney from 1861 to 1870. He was elected judge of the superior court of Los Angeles in 1879 and was a delegate to the California constitutional convention in 1878–79. Because of his age he declined a nomination for judge of the United States Supreme Court. At the expiration of one term on the superior court he retired because of ill health. He died in Santa Monica on May 14, 1889, and was buried in Fort Hill Cemetery, Los Angeles. Howard County, Texas, established on August 21, 1876, was named in his honor.

Biographical Directory of the American Congress. Zachary T. Fulmore, "General Volney Erskine Howard," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 14 (October 1910). United States Congress, Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–1989 (Washington: GPO, 1989).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, L. W. Kemp, "HOWARD, VOLNEY ERSKINE," accessed August 13, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fho80.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...