1 Edmund Collinsworth
Birth1750, Montgomery, Augusta, Virginia
Death3 Apr 1816, Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee
SpouseAlice Thompson
Birth1777, Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee
Death1827, Davidson, Tennessee
ChildrenJames Thompson (1806-1838)

1.1 James Thompson Collinsworth
Birth1806, Davidson, Tennessee1
Death11 Jul 1838, Houston, Harris, Texas1
BurialCity Cemetery, Houston, Texas1
COLLINSWORTH, JAMES (1806-1838). James Collinsworth, lawyer, jurist, and signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, was born in Davidson County, Tennessee, in 1806, the son of Edmund and Alice (Thompson) Collinsworth. He attended school in Tennessee, studied law, and was admitted to the Tennessee bar in 1826. He was an ally of Andrew Jackson, Sam Houston, and other leading Tennessee politicians. From April 30,1829, until early 1834, Collinsworth served as United States district attorney for the Western District of Tennessee. By 1835 he had moved to Matagorda, in the Brazos Municipality, Texas, and begun the practice of law. Along with Asa Brigham, John S. D. Byrom, and Edwin Waller (qqv) here presented Brazoria in the Convention of 1836.

At the convention Collinsworth signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, introduced and guided to adoption a resolution making his fellow Tennessean Sam Houston commander in chief of the Texas army, became chairman of the military affairs committee, and served on the committee appointed to draft a constitution for the new Republic of Texas. After the convention adjourned, Houston, on April 8, 1836, appointed Collinsworth his aide-de-camp with the rank of major. After the battle of San Jacinto Gen. Thomas J. Rusk commended him for his bravery and chivalry.

From April 29 to May 23, 1836, Collinsworth served as acting secretary of state in President David G. Burnet's cabinet. On May 26, 1836, because of his intimacy with President Andrew Jackson, he was designated a commissioner to the United States to seek assistance and possible annexation. The mission failed. Later in the year Collinsworth declined Houston's offer to make him attorney general of the Republic of Texas. Instead, on November 30, 1836, he was elected to a term in the Senate of the republic.

When the judiciary of the republic was organized, Collinsworth, on December 16, 1836, was appointed the first chief justice, a post he held until his death. Also in 1836 he helped organize the Texas Railroad, Navigation, and Banking Company, and the following year he helped found the city of Richmond. He was a charter member of the Philosophical Society of Texas, founded in 1837.

In 1838 Collinsworth was a candidate, along with Mirabeau B. Lamar and Peter W. Grayson (qqv) for the presidency of the republic. The first published report of his candidacy was on June 30, 1838. On July 11, however, after a week of drunkenness, he fell or jumped off a boat in Galveston Bay and drowned. Most assumed he committed suicide. His body was recovered and taken by boat up Buffalo Bayou to Houston, where it lay in state in the capitol. Chief Justice Collinsworth was buried in the City Cemetery, Houston, under the direction of Temple Lodge No.4; his was "the first Masonic funeral ever held in Texas." On August 21, 1876, Collingsworth County, its name misspelled in the act of the legislature establishing the county, was named in his honor. A state monument was placed at Collinsworth's grave in the old City Cemetery in Houston in 1931.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Joe E. Ericson, Judges of the Republic of Texas (1836-1846): A Biographical Directory (Dallas: Taylor, 1980). Louis Wiltz Kemp, The Signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence (Salado,Texas: Anson Jones, 1944; rpt. 1959). Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832-1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941).

Joe E. Ericson
Taken from the Houston Telegraph, Texas 21 February 1837

Colonel John T. Collinsworth, deceased, at Camp Independence on the 29th ult. Col. C was inspector general of the Texan army. In the month of June, 1826, he entered as a cadet at West Point academy, from Tennessee, of which he was a native, and graduated, with credit to himself, in 1830.

He served in the United States army until 1836, when he emigrated to Texas, and his service and personal worth called him to the station in which he died.

By service in a northern climate his constitution became impaired. He was about 27 years old. A man of the most unexceptionable habits. In a few words, he was the soldier, the gentleman, and one whose merits claimed the admiration of all who knew him. The army will deplore his loss, and reverence his memory. The soldier who falls in his prime, leaves a void in the anticipations of his friends. Thus has it been with colonel Collinsworth - the honorable, the noble, the generous and the brave.

Big Spring, Texas Daily Herald, July 24, 1952 Price 5 cents, p. 6
This Day In History by Curtis Bishop
"The first military funeral ever held in the Lone Star domain on this day in 1838 marked the burial of James Collinsworth, who had leaped from a steamer to his death in the waters of Galveston Bay three days before. Mourners heard Collinsworth lauded for his brilliant mind and his service to the fledgeling Republic, the orators left unmentioned his weakness for ardent spirits which had probably brought about his suicide. Long active in public affairs, Collinsworth at the time of his death was chief justice of the Supreme Court and candidate for the presidency of the Republic.

Born in Tennessee Collinsworth came to Texas in 1834. He quickly won a reputation as an outstanding lawyer. Soon after the Revolution he went to Washington with Peter Grayson to solicit United States aid in the war with Mexico and to seek annexation. Appointed Secretary of State by David Burnet, Collinsworth resigned that post in a huff because the president had appointed to high offices ‘persons who had never been in the country except temporarily.' Collinsworth, Texan for fifteen months, resented the newcomers.

Collinsworth's death and the suicide soon after of Peter Grayson, also a presidential candidate, insured the election of Mirabeau Lamar to the republic's highest office."