COLONEL RICHARD M. WYNNE, prominent lawyer and man of affairs of Fort Worth, has a reputation throughout the great state of Texas for brilliant ability as a legal practitioner and for wonderful courage and unconquerable integrity in the hard and grueling contest for position in the world, and even for existence during his earlier years, when, disabled in body but unbroken in spirit after his gallant devotion to the lost cause, he, with the aid of his noble wife, applied himself, what time he could spare from arduous manual toil to keep soul and body together, to the study of law and preparation for the larger career of his ambition—out from which early trials he came triumphant and successful, to rank among the foremost legal lights and political leaders of the Lone Star state.
The edifying career of Colonel Wynne has already been set forth convincingly and in a manner worthy of the subject by one of his many loyal friends, and the present biographer can do no better than to state a few outline facts before quoting entire the happily worded life history, as given our well known Texas lawyer and statesman.
Colonel Wynne was a son of William Benjamin and Sarah Anne (Moore) Wynne, who were both born in Tennessee and died in Texas, his mother being a great-niece of Bishop McKendry of Tennessee. Colonel Wynne’s wife is Laura (Kelly) Wynne, and they have four children: William Percy; Mrs. Laura Pauline Stephens, wife of Dr. Ernest L. Stephens; Richard M. Wynne, Jr.; and James Harold Wynne.
In December, 1897, Colonel Wynne was unanimously endorsed by the Democratic executive committee of Tarrant county as a candidate for the nomination for governor, and the committee issued an address to the Democrats of the state earnestly recommending his nomination. He made a creditable canvass during the following winter and spring, and, although defeated in the convention, he won and the delegates in every county where he spoke and made a canvass.
It was apropos of this canvass that the following sketch of Colonel Wynne, written by Hon. R. T. Miller, appeared in the Henderson Times, published at the Colonel’s old home:
“It is not strange that the news of Colonel R. M. Wynne’s announcement for governor has created great enthusiasm for his cause in this part of the state. In the array of splendid men already announced for that office no one has been more devoted to his country or truer to the principles of Democracy than Dick Wynne. No one has claims superior to his; none outrank him in experience, ability and statesmanship. His life presents a most remarkable example of what one can do unaided by anything in the world except the elements that come with one’s birth. Compelled by the hard master of poverty to struggle for his daily bread, with no advances of education except the school of experience, he passed his early years in an unpretentious pioneer home, fifteen miles from the nearest court house. Dick Wynne was born in Haywood county, Tennessee, in 1844, but in the fall of that year his father moved to Rusk county, Texas, and settled near Bellview, on Caney creek, in the midst of a howling wilderness. There he grew to a youth of seventeen years, worked on a farm and went to school in the winters after all the crops were gathered, all the schooling he ever had. In 1861 he enlisted for the war in Captain Barton’s company, and immediately started for the point of contest in the east. With his company he crossed the Mississippi river and joined the main army at Corinth, having first been organized into the Tenth Texas Cavalry, afterwards dismounted. His company was put in General Hogg’s brigade at Corinth and took part in the battle of Farmersville under Bragg, just after the battle of Shiloh. He remained continuously with the Army of The Tennessee, as it was then designated, until he was finally disabled at Nashville. He participated in every battle in which his regiment took part during the entire war, and his bravery and valor, in every contest, challenged the highest praise and admiration of the brave and gallant men who fought by his side. He was promoted to the second lieutenancy of his company in 1863, when but eighteen years old, and in response to a petition he commanded Company B of his regiment during the Georgia campaign, or till they fell back to Atlanta, at which time he was sent on scout service in the rear of Sherman’s army then besieging Atlanta.
“In the furious battle of Murphreesboro, in which part of the Union army was almost destroyed, Dick Wynne was carried from the field maimed in body and his clothes crimsoned with blood. From this wound he received, only to receive one later on, at the battle of Nashville, which will go with him to the grave. For nine weeks he was completely paralyzed, and was left in the hands of the enemy. He came home from prison, in December, 1865, eight months after the surrender of Lee at Appomattox.
“With the consciousness that he had done his duty as he saw it in the light of truth, patriotism and loyalty, carrying with him the scars of many an historic battlefield, with his good right arm dead in his sleeve, and his right leg partially paralyzed, and with as brave a soul and as true a heart and as noble a mind as God in His wisdom ever gave to a Confederate soldier, Dick Wynne came home to commence anew the struggle of life. And these were all that he brought back. Being too feeble to work on the farm, he was induced to run for office. Therefore, in 1866, when Throckmorton was elected governor, the Democrats of Rusk county triumphantly elected Wynne to the office of sheriff, the election taking place on June 26, only a few days after he had reached the age of twenty-one. He held that office until he, with the rest of Democrats, was removed by reconstruction acts. When removed he had made no money out of office save a bare support. In the meantime, however, he had married Miss Laura Kelly, a lady whose educational training was of the best and whose literary attainments are of a high order. He went to work on farm near Henderson, manipulated the plow and hoe with one hand, and made a good crop, studying law and reading generally under the tutelage of his wife. The proceeds from this crop were sufficient to support his family the greater part of the following year. Hence he was enable to prosecute his studies more vigorously, so he read law all spring and summer in the office of Judge Gould. In the fall, being out of money, he operated a gin and made twelve bales of cotton wit his wife’s help, she weighing the cotton as it was received and he operating the gin. With the proceeds of the cotton thus earned he supported himself and family until he was admitted to the bar. At that time the bar at Henderson was known to be one of great power and strength. There were such distinguished lawyers as Stedman, Jones, Morris, Bagley, Gould, Parsons, Armstrong, Casey and others. Wynne made such rapid progress that at the end of five years Hon. J. H. Jones offered him a partnership, which he accepted, Colonel Jones at that time being the acknowledged head of the bar in Henderson; and for ten years the firm of Jones and Wynne did the leading practice of east Texas.
“In 1880 he was nominated and elected to the state senate. He was not a candidate for the place and was nominated without solicitation on his part. He served two sessions—a regular session in 1881 and a special session in 1882. While in the senate he took an active part in all legislative matters, and soon became one of the most prominent members of that body. He was one of the strongest supporters of the three-cent-a mile railroad bill; favored criminal law reforms and was one of the five members who framed the bill establishing the University of Texas. He was a zealous supporter of Governor Roberts in all his reforms, and was known as one of the ‘Old Alcalde’s’ leaders in the senate. He supported with all his ability the Confederate land pension bill, and was then an advocate of a railroad commission and, together with others, made a hard fight to create one.
“At the end of his term, in 1882, he ran for attorney general, and was defeated by a small majority by John D. Templeton. But he turned defeat into victory in an eloquent speech withdrawing his name from the convention. So powerful was the effect of his speech that he was assured by at least four-fifths of the delegates of that convention that if they could reconsider their votes they would vote for him.
“Soon after that, on April 10, 1883, he moved to Fort Worth, in which city he has since resided, engaging in the practice of law. Though often importuned to run for governor, he has declined until now, and has only considered to make the race after the most earnest solicitations and assurances of support from friends throughout the state. In all the contests of the past, when aggregated wealth, under the control of heartless corporations, has sought to override the liberties of the people, Dick Wynne has been found where all true Democrats have been found, hand in hand with the masses, proclaiming the doctrine that shall live as long as justice endures—’Equal rights to all, special privileges to none.’ His sympathies are naturally with the great body of the people in their struggles for right and good government. In his great heart there is an abiding concern for the poor and distressed, and no one in a just cause ever called on him without enlisting his services. One of his old neighbors, who knew him before and during the war, and who has watched his course since with the deepest solicitude, remarked to the writer only a few days ago that he never knew a truer man than Dick Wynne. ‘He has always been right, and I have observed that those men who have been true soldiers, brave, honest and faithful, have been the true men since, and Dick Wynne was one of the truest soldiers in our army,’ is the way his old neighbor and comrade expressed it. And we might add that, here at his old home, among those who knew him in hi thought and have honored him in this manhood, is hared the opinion expressed above by the old Confederate solider who slept with him over in Georgia and Tennessee and Virginia, when Dick was a more boy, and where so many of our brave and good boys will continue to sleep until they with the brave boys in blue clasp hands n the morn of the resurrection. It is not strange that Dick Wynne’s candidacy was received and enthusiasm over here at his old home.”
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 110-112.