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James Luther Slayden

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Harris & Ewing photo, circa 1918.  Library of Congress.
Harris & Ewing photo, circa 1918. Library of Congress.

James Luther Slayden (June 1, 1853 – February 24, 1924), was a cotton merchant and rancher, and a politician, elected from San Antonio to United States House of Representative from Texas' 12th congressional district, serving 1897–1903. (In 1900 he was temporarily redistricted to the newly organized 14th congressional district, including Galveston and extending south along the coast.)

He supported the development of railroads in the state, as well as making San Antonio a United States military center. Slayden was also active in the peace movement and, in 1910, was appointed by Andrew Carnegie, an industrialist and philanthropist, as one of the original trustees of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Early life and education

James Luther Slayden was born in 1853 to Thomas A. and Letitia E. (Beadles) Slayden in Mayfield, Graves County, Kentucky. He had several siblings and was tutored at home. After his father died in 1869, he moved with his mother to New Orleans, Louisiana. He worked there for two years before attending Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia. He was a member of St. Anthony Hall.


Slayden moved to San Antonio, Texas, in 1876. There he first became a cotton merchant, when the commodity was still important to the Texas economy. Later he became a rancher, as well as involved in trade and mining interests in Mexico.

He supported opportunities to develop trade between Texas and other areas, and the construction of transportation infrastructure, beginning with railroads, within the state. For example, he supported development of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway, which connected the city to a port on Aransas Bay at the Texas coast and Gulf of Mexico. After serving in the state legislature, 1893–1895, Slayden returned to his ranching and business interests.

He was later elected repeatedly to Congress, serving from 1897 to 1919. After his retirement from Congress, Slayden returned to full-time management of his business interests, which included an orchard in Virginia, a ranch in Texas, and mines in Mexico.

Marriage and family

In 1883 he married Ellen Maury (1860–1926), from a wealthy and influential planter family in Charlottesville, Virginia. She grew up at her family plantation of "Piedmont," where she was tutored at home and became very well read.[1]

The Slaydens had no children. Ellen Maury Slayden worked in 1889 as the society editor of the San Antonio Express. After her husband's election as Congressman in 1896, they moved to Washington, DC, where they maintained a residence for 21 years.[1] They were a popular and powerful couple in the capital, where her husband achieved considerable seniority in Congress.

Ellen's older sister, Jane Lewis Maury, married Albert Maverick of San Antonio, and they made their home there. They had eleven children; their son Fontaine Maury Maverick became a prominent politician in Texas, elected as a US Congressman and a mayor of San Antonio.[2]

Ellen Slayden continued to write and publish articles. She maintained a diary describing their years in Washington, 1897–1919. She bequeathed the manuscript to her nephew, Fontaine Maury Maverick, also a politician. His widow, Terrell Maverick Webb, and her second husband, Walter Prescott Webb, eventually arranged to have the journal published as Washington Wife in 1962.[1]

Political career

Slayden became active in Democratic Party politics and was elected in 1892 to the State House of Representatives in the Twenty-third legislature. He declined to be a candidate for renomination and returned to ranching.

In 1896 he was elected as a Democrat from Texas' 12th congressional district to the 55th United States Congress. He and his wife Ellen moved to Washington, DC, where they established a home for 21 years. He was re-elected in 1898 and 1900, serving in total from 1897 to 1903. He was temporarily redistricted to Texas' 14th congressional district, which was created after the 1900 census and included Galveston and areas south of it along the coast.

In the 1902 election, Slayden ran as a candidate and was re-elected from the 12th congressional district, and continued to be re-elected, serving until 1919. As a legislator and later as a congressman, Slayden promoted the growth of the railroad system in Texas, which stimulated the growth of inland cities such as San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth, creating a pattern of development different from older eastern states, whose major cities were still based in coastal ports.

In the United States Congress, as a member of the Committee on Military Affairs, he encouraged the expansion of Fort Sam Houston. He was instrumental in developing San Antonio as a United States military center. After losing his bid for appointment as President Woodrow Wilson's Secretary of War, Slayden declined renomination to run for Congress in 1918.[3]

Civic affairs and private life

In October 1910, Slayden was appointed by Andrew Carnegie as one of the original trustees of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. For several years he was president of the American Peace Society. He was also elected as chairman of the American group of the Interparliamentary Union.

Slayden was active in various fraternal organizations: as a Freemason, an Elk , a member of St. Anthony Hall, and an Odd Fellow. In addition, he was a longtime member of the Episcopal Church.

He died in San Antonio on February 24, 1924, and was buried in Mission Park Cemetery.

Legacy and honors


  1. ^ a b c Mary S. Pearson, "Slayden, Ellen Maury", Handbook of Texas History Online, accessed 6 November 2012
  2. ^ Richard B. Henderson, "Maverick, Fontaine Maury", Handbook of Texas Online, 6 November 2012
  3. ^ Pohl, James W. "Slayden's Defeat: A Texas Congressman Loses Bid as Wilson's Secretary of War," Military History of Texas and the Southwest, Vol. 10 (1972): 43-56
  4. ^ Stephen L. Hardin, "Slayden, TX", Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association, accessed 6 November 2012


  • Slayden, Maury Ellen. Washington Wife: Journal of Mary Ellen (Maury) Slayden from 1897–1919, New York and Evanston: Harper & Row, 1962
  • Biographical Directory of the American Congress
  • Sondra Wyatt Gray, The Political Career of James Luther Slayden, University of Texas at Austin, 1962
  • Pohl, James W. "Slayden's Defeat: A Texas Congressman Loses Bid as Wilson's Secretary of War," Military History of Texas and the Southwest, Vol. 10 (1972): 43-56

External links

  • James Luther Slayden at Find a Grave
  • United States Congress. "James Luther Slayden (id: S000482)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
George H. Noonan
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 12th congressional district

March 4, 1897 – March 3, 1903
Succeeded by
Oscar W. Gillespie
New title Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 14th congressional district

March 4, 1903 – March 3, 1919
Succeeded by
Carlos Bee
This page was last edited on 28 October 2019, at 18:19
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