State Legislator & Texas General Land Office Commissioner
By Rhonda L. Callaway
William L. McGaughey, soldier, legislator, and commissioner of the General Land Office, was born on February 26, 1837, in Lawrence County, Alabama.
After graduating from La Grange (Alabama) Military College, McGaughey worked in the law office of the former governor of Alabama, D. P. Lewis.
With the onset of the Civil War in 1861, McGaughey enlisted as a private of Company H in the 16th Alabama Infantry of the Confederate Army. He saw action at Shiloh, where he suffered a head wound. He was shot in the side at Murfreesboro, and a wound to his right heel at Chickamauga ended his career as an infantryman. Subsequently, he served as an adjutant for the general and staff corps in the 5th Alabama Cavalry until the end of the war.
On December 20, 1865 McGaughey married Aurie A. Robbins. They had two sons. His sons both worked for the state of Texas.
In 1869 McGaughey moved his family to Texas and taught school in Van Zandt County.
After three years he moved to Hood County. Between 1880 and 1905 he raised cattle and acquired four tracts of land in Hood County. In 1902 his land was valued at $4,600, and he had 400 cattle worth $2,800.
McGaughey was elected to the Texas House of Representatives of the 19th Legislature, 1885, to represent the Fortieth District, which consisted of Hood, Erath, Bosque, and Somervell counties. He was re-elected in 1887 and 1889 to serve in the 20th and 21st legislatures.
In 1890 the Democratic state convention nominated McGaughey for commissioner of the General Land Office, and he easily won. He served in this position from 1890 to 1894.
Through his efforts in support of farmers, McGaughey provoked opposition from supporters of industrialization. His foes brought charges of incompetence against him, and he was impeached, tried, and acquitted on May 5, 1893. He resumed the duties of his office.
In 1897 he returned to the Texas House of Representatives to serve in the 25th Legislature, once again representing the 40th District. In the House he was the chairman of the Committee on Education. He also served on the Constitution, Lands and Land Office, and Rules committees.
McGaughey was a Cumberland Presbyterian, a Mason, and a member of the Farmers’ Alliance. He died on March 28, 1912, in Tolar and was buried in the family plot in Granbury.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Dallas Morning News, April 29, 1912. Lewis E. Daniell, Personnel of the Texas State Government, with Sketches of Representative Men of Texas (Austin: City Printing, 1887; 3d ed., San Antonio: Maverick, 1892). E. H. Loughery, Texas State Government (Austin: McLeod and Jackson, 1897).
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