- Get Involved
MCDONALD, WILLIAM JOHNSON
MCDONALD, WILLIAM JOHNSON (1844–1926). William Johnson McDonald, lawyer, banker, and philanthropist, eldest son of Henry Graham and Sarah (Johnson) McDonald, was born on a farm near Howland, Texas, on December 21, 1844. He attended McKenzie College, where Rev. John W. P. McKenzie was guardian of the orphaned William and his two brothers. McDonald left college in 1864 to join the Confederate Army but returned when the war ended and was graduated in 1867. He received a thorough classical training and developed a deep interest in astronomy, botany, zoology, and geology.
He supported himself for the next two or three years by teaching school and plying the printer's trade while studying law. He opened a law office in Clarksville in 1881 and became recognized as one of the best civil lawyers of Northeast Texas. He also prospered financially; from a small beginning as a moneylender, he advanced to the presidency of banks that he organized in Clarksville, Paris, and Cooper. On the establishment of the Paris bank in 1887, he moved to that city, where he lived for the rest of his life.
Increasing wealth made little change in his habits; he continued to work hard and to live modestly. He cared nothing for social life and took no active part in public affairs. Though without formal religious interest, he made unostentatious contributions to charity and helped a number of young men to get an education. When his fortune had become well assured, he traveled to Europe and Mexico, as well as to various points in the United States. In 1895 and 1896 he studied botany in summer school at Harvard University.
McDonald never married. He died in Paris on February 8, 1926, leaving an estate of over a million dollars, the bulk of which he bequeathed to the University of Texas to establish an observatory. His heirs contested the will, and the university eventually made an out-of-court settlement by which it received $800,000. The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory at Mount Locke is in the Big Bend area.
BIBLIOGRAPHY:Mamie Birge Mayfield and Paul M. Batchelder, "Biography of William Johnson McDonald, 1844–1926," Contributions from the McDonald Observatory, Fort Davis, Texas 1 (n.d.) Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
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, P. M. Batchelder, "MCDONALD, WILLIAM JOHNSON," accessed February 17, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmc44.
Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.