Robert McAlpin Williamson aka Three-Legged Willie

Robert M. Williamson aka 3 legged Willie a Texas statesmen .

a special thanks to Carlos Higgins for this photo

Beloved Texas patriot, Ranger, lawyer, judge, newspaper editor, and Williamson County’s namesake. The Republic of Texas appointed Major Williamson to organize the first three companies of Texas Rangers. He sat as a judge of the Third District Court and as a member of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Texas. Williamson was elected to both the House of Representatives and the Senate of the Republic. He later served as a state Senator.

Known affectionately as Three-legged Willie due to the wooden leg he used following an illness when he was 15. His right leg drew up at the knee and could not support him. Thereafter, he wore a wooden leg, leaving his useless foot extended behind him. A lawyer at 19, he fought with the cavalry at the Battle of San Jacinto. An enthusiastic supporter of Texas statehood, he named one of his sons Annexus.

Judge Williamson’s many contributions to the Republic and the young state were recognized in 1848. When the citizens of western Milam County petitioned for a new county, his fellow Senators named it in his honor. Although he didn’t live in the area, he traveled it as Judge of the Republic’s Third Judicial Circuit.

On San Jacinto Day, 1891, the original oil painting of this portrait was dedicated in the State Senate Chamber. Lt. Governor George C. Pendleton described Williamson as “the idol of the people…an upright and honest judge who unflinchingly administered the law.” George Clark of Waco declared, “Rome, even in the palmist days of her evolution, never had such a man.”

Life and Times of Three-Legged Willie

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The Time Capsules stories are prepared by

Bob Brinkman - Texas Historical Commission

TIME CAPSULE - April 1806

The Life and Times of Three-Legged Willie

This month we celebrate the life of our county namesake. Robert McAlpin Williamson was born in Georgia in 1806. At fifteen, he suffered an illness, likely polio, which cut his schooling short and permanently crippled his right leg. From then on, he wore a peg from his right knee to the ground, covered it with an extra pants leg, and was known to friends as “Three-Legged Willie.” While he was sick, he continued studying independently and was admitted to the bar at age 18. In 1826 he came to Texas to practice law, settling in Stephen F. Austin’s colony at San Felipe. He also edited the newspapers Cotton Plant, Texas Gazette, and Mexican Citizen, and appealed for Texas citizens to resist Mexican tyranny. At Anahuac in 1832, he forced Juan Bradburn to release his imprisoned friends Patrick Jack and William B. Travis (later commander at the Alamo). In 1835 Williamson was a delegate to the Consultation from Mina (later Bastrop) and was commissioned Major of Texas Ranger forces. He fought at San Jacinto in William Smith’s cavalry company.

In 1836 Williamson was elected to the Texas Supreme Court and represented an area including Milam County, out of which our county was carved.

He was elected to the Republic of Texas 5th, 6th, 7th, and 9th Congresses and 8th Senate (1840-45). Following Texas’ annexation to the U. S., for which Williamson had argued strongly, he named his son Annexus. Our county was created in 1848, and the proposed names of Clear Water and San Gabriel were rejected in favor of honoring Williamson’s patriotic contributions.

He served in the Senate of the first two state legislatures in 1846-50 and then ran unsuccessfully for U. S. Congress and Lieutenant Governor, retiring to his farm near Independence. Williamson died in 1859, and in 1930 he was re-interred in the State Cemetery in Austin.