Benjamin Green was born on August 18, 1810 in Catahoula Parish, Louisiana to Richard M Green and Priscilla Reynolds. The Green family came to Texas prior to 1834 and settled in what is now Liberty County. He signed up with his older brother Reason for the Texas army during the revolution in 1836 and on April 21, fought at the Battle of San Jacinto with an unknown company. At some point between 1834 and 1840, Benjamin married Cynthia Riley Pruitt (Prewitt); the couple would go on to have seven children. On October 6, 1871, Cynthia died and was buried in the old French Cemetery. Tragedy again struck Benjamin in 1881 when, while out splitting logs searching for wild honey with his son Edmond, his axe slipped, partially decapitating his son. Despite Benjamin's best efforts, his son died the following day and was buried next to his mother. Benjamin himself died on July 7, 1895 at his home and buried alongside his wife and son.
Joanna Troutman, designer of an early Texas Lone Star flag, was born on February 19, 1818, in Baldwin County, Georgia, the daughter of Hiram Bainbridge Troutman. In 1835, in response to an appeal for aid to the Texas cause, the Georgia Battalion, commanded by Col. William Ward, traveled to Texas. Joanna Troutman designed and made a flag of white silk, bearing a blue, five-pointed star and two inscriptions: "Liberty or Death" on the obverse and, in Latin, UBI LIBERTAS HABITAT, IBI NOSTRA PATRIA EST (Where Liberty dwells, there is our fatherland)" on the reverse. She presented the flag to the battalion, and it was unfurled at Velasco on January 8, 1836, above the American Hotel. It was carried to Goliad, where James W. Fannin raised it as the national flag when he heard of the Texas Declaration of Independence. The flag was accidentally torn to shreds, however, and only its remnants flew above the battle.
Joanna Troutman married Solomon L. Pope in 1839, and the couple moved to Elmwood, their prosperous plantation near Knoxville, Georgia, in 1840. They had four sons. Her husband died in 1872, and Joanna married W.G. Vinson, a Georgia state legislator, in 1875. She died on July 23, 1879, at Elmwood and was buried next to her first husband. In 1913 Texas governor Oscar B. Colquitt secured permission to have her remains taken to Texas for interment in the State Cemetery in Austin. A bronze statue by Pompeo L. Coppini was erected there as a monument to her memory; her portrait hangs in the state Capitol.
I.H. Kempner, millionaire investor and one of the originators of the commission form of city government, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the oldest son of eleven children of Elizabeth (Seinsheimer) and Harris Kempner. His father had emigrated from Poland, worked as a day laborer in New York, and eventually gone into the cotton warehouse business in Galveston. Kempner attended Washington and Lee University in Virginia until his father's death in 1894 forced him to drop out at age twenty-one and take over the family enterprises. He and his brother Daniel expanded the Kempner cotton business and branched out into real estate speculation.
Kempner was elected a director of the Galveston Cotton Exchange and served continuously as either director, president, or vice president of that organization for nearly fifty years. He served as Galveston finance commissioner from 1901 to 1915 and as mayor from 1917 to 1919. In 1906 he and W. T. Eldridge acquired a 12,000-acre sugar mill, plantation, and refinery in Sugar Land. They operated under various names from that time, continually expanding their control over the sugar-refining industry, until they held a virtual monopoly by the 1930s. After Eldridge's death in 1932 the Kempners consolidated this venture under family ownership and the name Imperial Sugar Company. Kempner and his youngest brother, Stanley, also took over the Texas Prudential Insurance Company. The brothers were active in banking and held a controlling interest in United States National Bank in Galveston, where Lee Kempner was CEO. In 1902 Kempner married Henrietta Blum; they had five children. Kempner died on August 1, 1967, in Galveston and was buried in the Hebrew Cemetery there.
John Hemphill, jurist and Confederate congressman, was born in Blackstock, Chester District, South Carolina, on December 18, 1803, the son of John and Jane (Lind) Hemphill. His father was a Presbyterian minister. Hemphill attended Jefferson College (now Washington and Jefferson) in Pennsylvania from 1823 to 1825 and graduated second in his class. He taught school for a while in South Carolina and in 1829 began to study law with David J. McCord in Columbia. After admission to practice in the court of Common Pleas in November 1829 he established a practice in Sumter District, South Carolina. In 1831 he was admitted to practice in the Court of Chancery. As a staunch advocate of states' rights, Hemphill edited a nullification newspaper in Sumter in 1832-33. In 1836 he volunteered for service in the Seminole War, in which he achieved the rank of second lieutenant.
In the summer of 1838 he immigrated to Texas and established a legal practice at Washington-on-the-Brazos. In early 1840 the Congress of the Republic of Texas elected him judge of the Fourth Judicial District, an election that automatically made him an associate justice of the republic Supreme Court. He was confirmed in the office on January 20, 1840. On March 19, 1840, he participated in the Council House Fight in San Antonio. In 1840-41 Hemphill joined several campaigns against the Comanches, and in 1842-43, during a period when the Supreme Court did not meet, he served as adjutant general of the Somervell expedition. On December 5, 1840, the Congress elected him chief justice of the Supreme Court, a position he held until 1858. He was elected a delegate from Washington County to the Convention of 1845, where he cast his vote in favor of statehood. Governor James Pinckney Henderson appointed Hemphill to a six-year term as chief justice, and he was confirmed on March 2, 1846. After the selection of Supreme Court justices was transferred to the voters, Hemphill was elected chief justice on August 4, 1851, and again in 1856.
As a jurist he took a particular interest in cases involving Spanish and Mexican law, which he had studied intensively, as well as those concerning marital rights, divorce, and homestead and other exemptions. He was noted for the "liberal construction" he placed on married women's rights and for his championship of homestead rights. His decisions are credited with substantially shaping the "form and content" of community property and homestead exemption law. Hemphill regretted the adoption of common law by the Texas Congress in 1840 and managed, in his written opinions, to preserve "something of the liberal spirit of the civil law." He was called the John Marshall of Texas for the significant role he played in the development of Texas jurisprudence.
In November 1857 Democrats, dissatisfied with Sam Houston, nominated Hemphill to succeed Houston when the latter's senatorial term ended in March 1859. Hemphill was subsequently elected by the Texas Senate and took office on March 4, 1859. In January 1861 he delivered an address expressing his belief in the right of states to secede, and on January 6, 1861, he was one of fourteen senators who recommended the immediate withdrawal of the southern states. On February 4, 1861, the Secession Convention elected him one of seven Texas delegates to the convention of Southern states in Montgomery, Alabama, which became the Provisional Confederate Congress. He was subsequently expelled from the United States Senate by resolution on July 11, 1861.
As a member of the Provisional Confederate Congress, Hemphill served on the Commercial and Financial Independence, Finance, and Judiciary committees and on the special committee to digest the laws. He devoted much of his attention to the task of adapting United States laws to Confederate purposes. In November 1861 he ran for a seat in the First Regular Congress but was narrowly defeated by Williamson S. Oldham. Before the end of the Provisional Congress Judge Hemphill died in Richmond, on January 4, 1862. His body was returned to Austin for burial in the State Cemetery. Never married, Hemphill was characterized as a private and reserved yet generous individual. Hemphill County, established on August 21, 1876, was named in his honor.
Willie (Devil) Wells, baseball player in the Negro Leagues, was once called "the greatest living player not in the baseball Hall of Fame," though he was elected to the hall posthumously. He was born in Austin on October 10, 1905. Wells was a talented shortstop who was discovered on the Texas sandlots in 1925 and joined the St. Louis Stars of the first Negro National League. He established an outstanding reputation with a lifetime batting average of .358 in games for which there are confirmed records. In the Negro Leagues he played for the Stars, the Chicago American Giants, the Newark Eagles, and other teams.
Wells had a reputation as a fierce competitor. At a time when batting helmets were very unusual, he chose to play for the Newark Eagles after suffering a concussion, but he put on a construction helmet for added protection. He was a clutch hitter and an extraordinary fielder called the "Shakespeare of Shortstops." His glove was known for a hole in its middle, which Wells claimed made his fielding easier. In 1929 Wells went to Cuba and played in the integrated Cuban league, where he competed and excelled against Cuban players and white major leaguers. In 1929 he was the most valuable player in the Cuban league. Wells was selected eight times for the East-West Classic, the Negro Leagues' all-star game, including the first game in 1933 and the 1945 game, in which he played second base for the East and Jackie Robinson, then of the Kansas City Monarchs, played shortstop for the West. When Robinson joined the major leagues, Wells worked with him on his second base position.
Wells was a player-manager for the Chicago American Giants in the early 1930s and became famous as the player-manager of the Newark Eagles in the 1940s, at which time they were one of the very best black teams. He took particular pride in the success of Newark players Monte Irvin, Larry Doby, and Don Newcombe in the major leagues. In the 1940s Wells played in the Mexican league, where he again excelled and demonstrated that he was an outstanding player against the white major leaguers, who also played in the Mexican league. In 1941-42 he played in Puerto Rico. Wells was well known for his play in the California winter league, where a team of stars from the Negro Leagues competed. He also played frequently on the Satchel Paige All-Star team, a group of players selected by Satchel Paige to barnstorm against white major league players after the World Series. When his playing career ended he worked in New York for a number of years before returning to Austin. He had two children, one of whom, Willie Wells, Jr., also played briefly in the Negro Leagues, including one year with his father. Wells died of heart failure in Austin on January 22, 1989. His obituary was carried in the New York Times. In 1997 he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, by the hall's Committee on Baseball Veterans.