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Life and Times of Three-Legged Willie
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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 on his own 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 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.