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Brian Hart

HUFF, ROBERT E. (1857–1939). Robert E. Huff, attorney, banker, and civic leader, was born to William E. and Martha E. (Johnson) Huff in Lebanon, Virginia, on January 31, 1857. The family moved to Tennessee in 1866, and Huff received a sporadic private school education at Bedford and Bell Buckle. He completed his studies at Bedford College in 1873, taught in a public school at Elmwood, Tennessee, farmed, and worked as a clerk in a general store. He read law in his spare time in hopes of some day becoming an attorney. He attended Cumberland Law School in Lebanon, Tennessee, for several spring terms, graduated on April 1, 1881, and was admitted to the bar at Shelbyville, where he practiced for one year. He decided to establish a practice in the relatively undeveloped North Texas community of Vernon, but in May 1882, after arriving in Gainesville, the rail town nearest Vernon, he chose to settle in Wichita Falls. This decision was strongly influenced by a chance meeting with Joseph H. Barwise, the first permanent settler in Wichita Falls, who informed Huff that the town had no practicing attorneys and would likely provide considerable legal business since the movement to organize Wichita County was centered there.

Upon his arrival in Wichita Falls Huff was drawn into the county organization drive. His was among the 150 signatures, some given by transients, affixed to a petition calling for an election to organize the county. Because he was a lawyer he was one of two men chosen to carry the petition to the Clay County Commissioners Court; in fact, he presented the petition and managed to persuade four of the five commissioners to approve it. In the ensuing elections to choose Wichita County officials, Huff was voted county attorney, a position he held for two terms. He quickly established a successful civil law practice in Wichita Falls. He was appointed to the board of directors of the Panhandle National Bank (later the First National Bank) in 1888 and made president later that year. He maintained the bank's solvency during a period of economic stagnation caused by two years of drought and crop failure. Under his leadership the bank survived panics in 1893, 1907, 1914, and 1921. He also cofounded a bank in Frederick, Oklahoma, in 1907 and established the State Trust Company in Wichita Falls in 1914.

Huff served as a member of the first Wichita Falls board of aldermen and first school board, and he donated land for various purposes to the community. He was president of the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce from 1909 through 1919. He served as chairman of five committees established to attract railroad companies to extend their lines to the community, and he personally led drives to raise required bonuses or sell required amounts of stock as dictated by various railroads. He invested his own funds not only in railroads but in local industries including the Times Publishing Company, which he helped organize and served as a director until his death. He was also a charter member of the First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls and served on that institution's board of trustees for many years.

As a staunch Democrat, Huff played a part in his party's activities at the local, state, and national levels. He was frequently chairman of the Wichita County Democratic convention and was a member of the state Democratic executive committee. In addition, he was a delegate to the Democratic national convention in 1912, 1916, 1920, and 1932. In 1912 he supported Woodrow Wilson on every ballot until his nomination. In May 1885 he married Elizabeth Burroughs of Wichita Falls. The couple raised seven children. Huff died at his home in Wichita Falls on November 20, 1939.

Louise Kelly, Wichita County Beginnings (Burnet, Texas: Eakin Press, 1982). Jonnie R. Morgan, The History of Wichita Falls (Wichita Falls, 1931; rpt., Wichita Falls: Nortex, 1971). Wichita Falls Times, May 15, 1957.

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

Handbook of Texas Online, Brian Hart, "HUFF, ROBERT E.," accessed July 02, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fhu12.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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