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 »


H. Allen Anderson

WHEELER, ROYAL T. (1810–1864). Royal T. Wheeler, chief justice of the state Supreme Court, was born in Vermont in 1810. He moved with his family to Ohio and there prepared himself successfully for the bar. In 1837 he moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas, and became the law partner of Williamson S. Oldham. In 1839 Wheeler married Emily Walker of Fayetteville and soon afterward moved to San Augustine, Texas, where he established a law partnership with Kenneth L. Anderson, vice president of the republic. In 1842 Wheeler was appointed district attorney for the Fifth Judicial District, and in 1845 he became district judge and a member of the Texas Supreme Court, then composed of the district judges sitting en banc. With the organization of state government in 1845 he was appointed associate justice of the state Supreme Court. In 1851 and 1856 he was reelected to the same position. In December 1857 Wheeler was chosen to succeed John Hemphill as chief justice, a position he held until his death. In addition, Wheeler became professor of law at Austin College in 1858. Wheeler was said to have an amiable and friendly disposition, to be a sound lawyer with a penetrating mind, and as a judge to base his decisions on principle and an acute understanding of fact. Politically Wheeler held to the principles of the old Whig party. But he advocated annexation to the Union and in 1861 embraced the secession movement as the best alternative for the South. During his later years, as hope for Confederate victory waned, Wheeler was inclined to fits of melancholy. On April 9, 1864, he committed suicide in Washington County. Wheeler County, organized in 1879, was named for him, as was its county seat.

James D. Lynch, The Bench and Bar of Texas (St. Louis, 1885). Robert F. Miller, "Early Presbyterianism in Texas as Seen by Rev. James Weston Miller, D.D," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 19 (October 1915). Harold Schoen, comp., Monuments Erected by the State of Texas to Commemorate the Centenary of Texas Independence (Austin: Commission of Control for Texas Centennial Celebrations, 1938).

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, H. Allen Anderson, "WHEELER, ROYAL T.," accessed July 14, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwh09.

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...