Texas Politics and One’s Mental Health

The first regularly elected president of the Republic of Texas was, of course, Sam Houston. A close study of that man’s life reveals an extremely strong-willed individual. He is the personification of not only Texas, but an age. The personal setbacks in his life led him to do things that were really strange (run away to live with the Cherokees, assault people, go on long benders, dress in outrageous wardrobes, etc). He did what he had to do to navigate personal turmoil. He was a better man after each episode.

Houston was recovering from a serious life-threatening wound he suffered at San Jacinto when people begged him to run for president. He did not want to run, doctors in New Orleans removed over twenty bone fragments from his shattered ankle. His other war wounds from the Creek Indian War plagued him his entire life. While fighting for his life, he consented to run for Texas president only eleven days before the election. He won, but Texas law did not allow consecutive terms.

M.B. Lamar ran on the “No Annexation” platform to be the second president. Over 95% of Texans wanted to be annexed to the U.S. so his platform was not popular. Houston asked two political allies to run in his stead to stave off Lamar: James Collinsworth and Peter Grayson. Houston figured he had a two out of three chance to defeat Lamar.

James Collinsworth was on a steamer in Galveston Bay when he decided to end his life by jumping overboard to his death.

Peter Grayson was on his way back to Texas when he stopped at a tavern in Tennessee. He left a note apologizing to the inn keeper before he shot himself in the head.

Lamar became president much to the detriment of Texas, however, he is the father of free public education in Texas. He also moved the capital from Houston to Austin and designed our tricolor lone star flag. Houston hated the enormous debt Lamar ran up in a bid to make Texas an empire rather than a land preparing for statehood.

Again, after Houston was elected as the third president, he could not succeed himself. He asked a friend, Anson Jones, to run and prepare the republic for imminent statehood. Jones consented and won the election. He was the last president of the republic, but he did things that were very unpopular with voters. Therefore, he was not appointed as a senator in the new state. He shot himself in what would later become the Rice Hotel in Houston.

Thomas Rusk was a long time friend with an on again off again relationship with Houston. It was he who convinced Houston to run for president the first time. He was the other senator from the new state serving with the “Old Chief” in that office. He went to DC to represent Texas and doctors discovered a lump at the base of his neck not long after his arrival. They believed the lump was a tumor. Rusk took his life through a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

I write this to share thoughts on mental health. Be aware of your own and others’ mental states. We have all lost friends to suicide and it’s never easy to navigate the aftermath of such a devastating event. The old heroes of Texas were “tough men” living in tough times. If they could succumb to personal demons, anyone could.

The National Suicide Hotline is a three-digit number we should all have memorized: 9-8-8. Pass it around. 

2 thoughts on “Texas Politics and One’s Mental Health”

  1. Darrell.
    I’ve been told my whole life that we are descendants of Thomas Jefferson Rusk. There are whispered stories, that differ somewhat from official accounts have been told told about his life and passing.
    It seems his last political position was that of Governor of the Nacogdoches territory. Part of his duty was to notify resident land owners to retitled their property from Mexican titles and deeds to the new founded Republic.. this had to be done by a particular date.
    Seems that the posters posting notice were oddly. In English only.. after the posted date. Thomas Rusk and a few of his friends, came into the possession of a few more land holdings.
    Some found it odd that he later committed suicide while setting in a rocking chair next to a window in the NE corner of his home on what is now North St. Fairly close to what is now North Street across from the Old Stone Fort and what is now the campus of Steven F Austin University
    Oddly the rifle used was a 36 caliber rifle common at the time. With a barrel length of about 42 inches… the wound allegedly to the left temple. How long would his arm have to be? Is there any evidence to prove of disprove ? Not that I have seen.. just a story circulated by some family elder. But…he was a lawyer and politician.
    Bob Bryce

    1. I know that right after San Jacinto Sam Houston wanted Rusk to run for president. Houston was recovering from surgery in New Orleans. Rusk refused to run because he thought he was too young. Houston reluctantly made the decision to run 11 days before the election. He ran, but could not hold office for consecutive terms. My understanding about the suicide of Rusk was that his wife just died of TB and there was a tumor on his neck he thought was fatal. He was distraught. I didn’t research the details of the suicide.

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