Robert E. B. Baylor

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Robert E. B. Baylor
Associate Judge of the Third Judicial District of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Texas
In office
Preceded byJohn T. Mills
Succeeded byCourt abolished
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1829 – March 3, 1831
Preceded byJohn McKee
Succeeded bySamuel W. Mardis
Member of the
Alabama House of Representatives
from Tuscaloosa County
In office
November 15, 1824 – December 25, 1824
Preceded byJames Hill
Succeeded bySeth Barton
Marmaduke Williams
Member of the
Kentucky House of Representatives
In office
Preceded byGeorge W. Baylor
Personal details
Born(1793-05-10)May 10, 1793
Lincoln County, Kentucky, U.S.
DiedJanuary 6, 1874(1874-01-06) (aged 80)
Gay Hill, Texas, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic-Republican
Other political
Know Nothing (1855–1857)
RelativesGeorge W. Baylor (brother)
Walker Keith Baylor (brother)
J. Walker Baylor Jr. (nephew)
Henry W. Baylor (nephew)
John R. Baylor (nephew)
George W. Baylor (nephew)
Thomas Chilton (cousin)
Will Chilton (cousin)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Republic of Texas
Branch/serviceU.S. Army
Texas Army
Years of service1812-1815 (USA)
1836 (Alabama)
1840 (Texas)
RankLieutenant colonel
UnitCol. Boswell's Regiment, Kentucky Volunteer Light Infantry
Alabama Volunteer Militia
Col. Burleson's Volunteers

Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor (May 10, 1793 – January 6, 1874) was an American statesman, jurist, ordained Baptist minister, war veteran, slave owner, and a co-founder and the namesake of Baylor University.

One of the most productive justices of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Texas, his cumulative work, including 15 written opinions for the court, and other separate decisions on some occasions, is exceeded only by full-time justice John Hemphill, William J. Jones, and William Beck Ochiltree.

Early life[edit]

The fifth son and sixth child of twelve children born to Walker and Jane (née Bledsoe) Baylor, Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor was born on May 10, 1793, in Lincoln County, Kentucky.[1][2] The Baylor family was of English descent, with origins in Devon, England.[3] His uncle, George Baylor, was the first aide-de-camp to General George Washington in the American Revolutionary War and his father and uncle both served in the life guard to Washington in the Continental Army.[4] His uncle was captured in the Baylor Massacre on September 28, 1778, near Tappan, New Jersey, and was later returned in an exchange.[5] His father served in the 3rd Continental Light Dragoons[2] commanded by his brother George, and was disabled by a cannonball that crushed his instep at the Battle of Germantown at the age of 17.[6] His mother was the sister of Jesse Bledsoe, a U.S. Senator from Kentucky.[7]

R. E. B. Baylor attended the local schools around Paris, Kentucky,[8] and was in a large manner self-taught.[4] He was a soldier in the Kentucky militia, seeing action with Colonel William E. Boswell's Regiment during the War of 1812, participating in battles in Ohio against the British, Tecumseh, and Tecumseh's confederacy.[9] He also participated in the ill-fated invasion of Canada. After the war, he studied law under his uncle Jesse Bledsoe and practiced law in Kentucky.[10]

Political and judicial career[edit]

Origins in Kentucky[edit]

Baylor was briefly a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1819 to 1820, before he resigned and moved to Alabama.[10][11] He had offered himself for the Kentucky Legislature in place of his older brother George, who was stepping down. He played the violin or fiddle along with his opponent, Robert P. Letcher, to attract voters, later claiming a narrow victory.[4]

Alabama representative[edit]

After a single term in office in Kentucky, Baylor left and abruptly moved to Alabama. Some have attributed the sudden move to grief. A persistent story says that while he was riding with a young woman he intended to marry, she was bucked off her horse and dragged to her death, with Baylor unable to save her. Finding the familiar scenes of Kentucky too painful to endure, he left for Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Once there, Baylor began to practice law and later continued his political career.[4] He finished first out of five candidates to represent Tuscaloosa County in the Alabama House of Representatives in 1824.[11] He first ran for Alabama's 2nd congressional district in 1825, losing by 176 votes to John McKee.[a] Baylor was elected as a Jacksonian to the Twenty-first Congress (March 4, 1829 – March 3, 1831) from Alabama's 2nd congressional district and was an unsuccessful candidate for election in 1830 to the Twenty-second Congress. In 1836, Baylor was a lieutenant colonel fighting against the Creek tribe in the Creek War of 1836.[11] In 1839, he converted and was ordained a Baptist minister.[10] Shortly after the Battle of San Jacinto, Baylor's nephew, John Walker Baylor Jr., set out to visit his uncles R. E. B. Baylor and Walker Keith Baylor in Mobile, Alabama. While at the home of relatives on furlough from the Texian Army, J. W. Baylor Jr. died from wounds he received that had become infected.[13]

Career in Texas[edit]

In 1839, Baylor moved to La Grange, Texas.[8] On February 5, 1840, Mirabeau Lamar, the second president of the Republic of Texas, signed the following Act of Congress:

"Section 1st--Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Republic of Texas, in Congress assembled. That the Secretary of War, be required to issue to R. E. B. Baylor heir of Doctor J. W. Baylor deceased a certificate for 640 acres of land as a donation for participating in the battle of San Jacinto, and a certificate for 640 acres of land allowed to those who died in the service of the country.
"Section 2nd--Be it further enacted. That the commissioner of the General Land Office be required to grant to the said R.E.B. Baylor, heir of Doctor J. W. Baylor deceased a certificate of one third of a league of land, being the headright of Doctor J. W. Baylor deceased, any law to the contrary notwithstanding."

This act secured a large amount of land in Baylor's name as the heir to his nephew and for his nephew's services in the army. He ended up giving it to his nephew's brothers and sisters.[14] He quickly made a name for himself in Texas law as judge of the Third Judicial District of the Congress of the Republic of Texas, and was appointed to the Supreme Court of the Republic of Texas as an associate justice in 1841, a position he would hold until the annexation of Texas in 1845.[11]

Baylor was one of the first officers of the Texas Baptist Educational Society[15] and, in 1844, along with Reverend William Tryon and Reverend James Huckins, sent a petition to the Congress of the Republic of Texas asking the nation to charter a Baptist university.[16] In response to this petition, The Republic of Texas produced an Act of Congress that was signed on February 1, 1845, by Anson Jones, providing the charter that yielded Baylor University and, later, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.[17] The Texas Temperance Society elected him as its first president in 1845. Baylor was one of two delegates, along with James S. Mayfield, elected to represent Fayette County at the Texas Constitutional Convention of 1845. At the convention he advocated for homestead protection, the forbiddance of ministers from legislative service, a system of judicial appointment and fought strongly against judicial elections. On April 16, 1846, Baylor was appointed to a six-year term as judge of the state's Third Judicial District. He was confirmed by the senate without a dissenting vote, although senator Jesse Grimes tried to lay the nomination on the table and did not vote in the confirmation. Baylor, later the same year, entered the running in the first election for the state's 2nd congressional district, finishing last out of four candidates, with the seat won by Timothy Pilsbury. Initially successful in his effort against judicial elections, the greatest change in his career occurred in 1850 when, by constitutional amendment, the appointment system was replaced in favor of popular judicial elections.[18] He held the judicial position until his retirement in 1863.[11]

Later life and legacy[edit]

R. E. B. Baylor was named to the inaugural faculty of the Baylor Law School for its opening in 1857. His judicial duties did not permit him to present regular lectures.[18] In the 1860 census, he was one of the wealthiest residents in Washington County, Texas.[2] Thomas R. Phillips wrote that he was the interim president of Baylor University in 1867.[18] However, Baylor University has stated he never was President of the university.[19] He was the president of the Baylor Female College Board of Trustees.[18]

After his retirement from the legal profession in 1863 he lived the remainder of his life in Gay Hill, Texas.[8]

During the Civil War, Baylor supported the Confederacy and the grounds of Baylor University, then in Independence, were used as a training and staging ground for the Confederate Army.[20][21] A nephew of Baylor, John R. Baylor, was a prominent leader in the Confederacy serving as both a governor and later as a member of the Confederate Congress.


He died on January 6, 1874, and was buried in Independence, Texas, on the original site of Baylor University. In 1917, his remains were exhumed and transferred to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas. After the original Baylor had closed, the residents of Independence's hostility toward the new Baylor University in Waco was too great to permit reburial there, so eventually Judge Baylor was re-interred in the main building at University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton. A fire destroyed the building and ruined his gravesite in 1964. His remains were moved to a small historical park on the campus. A monument was erected in 1966, bearing the single word "Baylor."[18]


Baylor is memorialized on the Waco campus by a seated bronze statue[18] unveiled for the 94th anniversary of university's founding on February 1, 1939, sculpted by Pompeo Coppini and funded by the Texas Centennial Commission.[19] One of Judge Baylor's former slaves, Ann Freeman, was presented on stage and applauded by attendees of the unveiling.[22]

Political, social, and religious views[edit]

Initially a supporter of Andrew Jackson when elected to Congress, Baylor would later change his views on the president.[4] In the mid-1850s, Baylor was an influential leader in the Nativist Texas Know Nothing Party and was named the party's "Grand President"[23] at a secret convention in Washington-on-the-Brazos on June 11, 1855.[18]


R. E. B. Baylor owned slaves while living in Texas, predominately women. A report commissioned by Baylor University found that in 1860 enslaved persons formed a significant portion of his wealth; the 1860 Census records him as owning 33 slaves.[24] In his role as a judge, he once punished an abolitionist harboring an escaped slave. Another man was punished for not returning a borrowed slave promptly. In 1854, Judge Baylor sentenced a slave to hang for arson. In 1856, he ordered the execution of yet another slave. In 1857, he levied a heavy fine on a white person who bought some bacon from a slave. And in 1862, as the Civil War raged, he ordered the execution of a slave for “intent to rape a white female.”[20]

Religious views[edit]

Before 1839, Baylor had always been a skeptic. He had personally identified first as a Deist and then a Unitarian.[4] He converted and became a Baptist in 1839.[25][26]

Personal life[edit]

Baylor was a Mason from 1825 until his death.[11] He never married and had no children, although he was close to his nephew John R. Baylor, who lived with him for a time.[2][25] An 1899 genealogy of the Baylor family erroneously lists R. E. B. Baylor as the father of John R. Baylor.[5]


  1. ^ John McKee received the most votes on the first ballot and was declared the winner with 4284 votes to Baylor's 4108. John D. Terrill placed third with 2079 votes.[12]


  1. ^ Baylor, Orval Walker; Baylor, Henry Bedinger (1914). Baylor's History of the Baylors: A Collection of Records and Important Family Data. Atlanta: LeRoy Journal Printing Company. p. 27 – via the Wayback Machine. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ a b c d "The Naming of Baylor". Baylor University. Archived from the original on December 1, 2013. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  3. ^ Genealogy of the Fitzhugh-Knox-Gordon-Sevier families. Foote & Davies. 1932. p. 16.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Phillips, Thomas R.; Paulsen, James W. (Spring 2014). "The Enduring Legacies of Judge R. E. B. Baylor, Part 1" (PDF). Journal of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society. 3 (3): 4–12.
  5. ^ a b "The Baylor Family (Continued.)". Virginia Historical Magazine. 6 (3): 307–309. January 1899. JSTOR 4242170.
  6. ^ "Walker Baylor 1822 obituary". Vol. 15, no. 42. Kentucky Reporter. October 14, 1822 – via Lexington Public Library. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ Kemp, Louis Wiltz. "Baylor, John Walker" (PDF). San Jacinto Museum and Battlefield. p. 187. Retrieved January 2, 2024.
  8. ^ a b c Deeringer, Martha (May 2019). "Baylor, the Man". Texas Co-op Power: 29.
  9. ^ Windham, Ben (February 17, 2007). "Ben Windham: Baylor University founder had city ties". The Tuscaloosa News. Retrieved January 2, 2024.
  10. ^ a b c Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor Papers, Accession #1362, The Texas Collection, Baylor University
  11. ^ a b c d e f Summerlin, Travis L. "Baylor, Robert Emmett Bledsoe". The Handbook of Texas. Texas State Historical Association.
  12. ^ "Alabama 1825 U.S. House of Representatives, District 2". A New Nation Votes: American Election Returns 1787-1825. Tufts University. January 11, 2012. Retrieved January 22, 2024.
  13. ^ Baylor, George W. Kemp, Louis Wiltz (ed.). "Baylor, John Walker" (PDF). San Jacinto Museum and Battlefield. pp. 186–189. Retrieved January 2, 2024.
  14. ^ Kemp, Louis Wiltz. "Baylor, John Walker" (PDF). San Jacinto Museum and Battlefield. p. 192. Retrieved January 2, 2024.
  15. ^ Reynolds, J.A. "Texas Baptist Educational Society". The Handbook of Texas. Texas State Historical Association.
  16. ^ "History". About Baylor. Baylor University. Archived from the original on March 2, 2023. Retrieved January 20, 2024.
  17. ^ Camp, Ken (June 1, 2016). "Texas Baptist Heritage Road Trip—A summer to celebrate". Baptist Standard Publishing.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g Phillips, Thomas R.; Paulsen, James W. (Summer 2014). "The Enduring Legacies of Judge R. E. B. Baylor, Part 2" (PDF). Journal of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society. 3 (3): 12–26.
  19. ^ a b "Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor Statue". Baylor University.
  20. ^ a b Van Gorter, A. Christian (February 18, 2017). "Baylor's history mirrors our nation's in matters of race". Waco Tribune-Herald. Retrieved September 5, 2020.
  21. ^ Fogleman, Lori (March 23, 2021). "Baylor University Releases Independent Report of Commission on Historic Campus Representations". Media and Public Relations: Baylor University (Press release). Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  22. ^ "Baylor University Commission on Historic Campus Representations" (PDF). Baylor University. August 16, 2022. p. 14.
  23. ^ Wooster, Ralph A. (January 1967). "An Analysis of the Texas Know Nothings". The Southwestern Historical Quarterly. 70 (3): 414–423. JSTOR 30237906.
  24. ^ "Baylor University Commission on Historic Campus Representations" (PDF). Baylor University. August 16, 2022. pp. 11–13.
  25. ^ a b Cousins, Emily (February 11, 2021). "Campus conversations about Judge Baylor's history". The Baylor Lariat. Retrieved January 11, 2024.
  26. ^ "Who was Judge Baylor?". Baylor University. May 10, 2018. Retrieved January 11, 2024.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by Associate Judge of the Third Judicial District of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Texas
Succeeded by
Court abolished
Political offices
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 2nd congressional district

March 4, 1829 – March 3, 1831
Succeeded by
Alabama House of Representatives
Preceded by
James Hill
Member of the Alabama House of Representatives from Tuscaloosa County
Succeeded by
Kentucky House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the Kentucky House of Representatives
Succeeded by