Robert Lee Williamson

JENNINGS, THOMAS JEFFERSON (1801–1881). Thomas Jefferson Jennings, legislator and attorney general, son of William and Mariam Howard (Smith) Jennings, was born in Shenandoah County, Virginia, on October 20, 1801. When he was about ten years old the family moved to Indiana and from there to Kentucky. He clerked in a country store and taught school to earn money to attend Transylvania College, where he graduated with highest honors in 1825. While teaching in Paris, Tennessee, he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1827. For two years he practiced in partnership with his brother, Judge Dudley S. Jennings, and then moved to Huntington, Tennessee, where he was connected with Berry Gillespie until he moved to Yazoo City, Mississippi, in 1836. Jennings moved to San Augustine, Texas, in the spring of 1840, and in the fall to Nacogdoches. There, in January 1844, he married Mrs. Sarah G. Mason. He was elected attorney general of Texas in 1852 and held the office until 1856, when he did not seek reelection. He moved to a plantation near Alto and in 1857 was elected to the Texas legislature as a representative from Cherokee County. As a state representative he opposed founding the University of Texas, evidently out of concern that Austin would corrupt the morals of students. In 1861 Jennings was a member of the Secession Convention. He owned five slaves in 1850 and six in 1860. He joined the Confederate Army but in the fall of 1861 suffered a paralytic stroke that incapacitated him for eighteen months. He moved to Tyler in 1864 and resumed his law practice, first with B. T. Selman and later with his son, Tom R. Jennings. He retired from practice in 1875 and in 1877 moved to Fort Worth, where he died on September 23, 1881.

John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (Austin: Daniell, 1880; reprod., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Carolyn Reeves Ericson, Nacogdoches, Gateway to Texas: A Biographical Directory (2 vols., Fort Worth: Arrow-Curtis Printing, 1974, 1987). Sidney S. Johnson, Texans Who Wore the Gray (Tyler, Texas, 1907). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970).

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:

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, Robert Lee Williamson, "JENNINGS, THOMAS JEFFERSON," accessed February 23, 2020,

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...