Friday, December 9, 2011

Astyanax Mills Douglass (1838-1908)

Portrait courtesy of the Legislative Reference Library of Texas website.

    The politician profiled today is one Astyanax Mills Douglass, a multi-term representative in the Texas legislature from the county of Hill who was later elected to two terms in the state senate in the latter period of his life.  Thanks must be given to the ever useful website called the Legislative Reference Library of Texas, where the above picture of Mr. Douglass was located. The aforementioned legislative database has done a great job in chronicling the history of the Texas State Legislature and the many men and women who have walked its halls, including the man being profiled today.
  Astyanax M. Douglass was born September 10, 1838 in the county of Sumner, Tennessee, a son of James and Caroline Mills Douglass, and is presumed to have been bestowed his unusual first name in honor of Astyanax, a child mentioned in Greek mythology as being the first born son of Hector, the crown prince of Troy. Douglass attended schools local to Tennessee and later went on to pursue the study of medicine in Nashville, earning his degree to practice medicine in 1861. 
   Following his graduation from medical school, Douglass relocated to Mississippi, and it was here that he enlisted amongst the ranks of the Confederate Army. During his service, Douglass served with Co. I of the Sixth Mississippi Infantry and was promoted to second lieutenant following his actions at the Battle of Shiloh. Douglass later saw action at the Siege of Corinth, Mississippi, where he was grievously injured, necessitating his removal to a military hospital in Bowling Green to recuperate. After a period of convalescence, Douglass returned to the active duty, and in 1864 suffered another injury at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, and was later taken prisoner by the Union Army.
   After a period spent as a prisoner of war, Douglass returned to Tennessee and reestablished his medical practice. He removed to Texas in 1866 and engaged in farming, in addition to his career as a physician. In 1868 Douglass married to Charlotte Anne Gathings (1840-1904) and later became the father to four children, M. Callie (1869-1877), James Gathings (1874-1949), Bennie (died in infancy in 1881) and Lottie (died in infancy in 1883.) Following his marriage, Astyanax Douglass continued to practice medicine and became active in Democratic political circles in Hill County. His prominence in the area eventually led to his nomination for a seat in the Texas State House of Representatives, to which he was elected in November 1873.
   In early 1874 he began the first of three successive terms in the Texas State legislature, serving here until 1881. During these terms, Douglass held seats on a number of House committees, including Contingent Expenses, Counties and County Boundaries, Private Land Claims, Public Lands and Land Office, Internal Improvements and Indian Affairs. 

            Douglass pictured early in his legislative career, from the Texas Legislative Library website.

  Throughout the 1880s, Douglass busied himself in a variety of local positions, including a stint as Chairman of the Hill County Democratic Executive Committee. In 1887 he was named as the second vice president of the Texas State Medical Association and served one year in office.  Douglass was also elected to the permanent post of president of the Confederate Veterans and Old Settlers Association of Hill County, serving until his death.
   Douglass resumed his political career in 1893 when he was elected to the Texas State Senate, where he served a term that concluded in 1895. He was returned to the Senate eight years later, where he served another two-year term. During these terms Douglass served on the Senate committees on Agricultural Affairs, Internal Improvements Roads, Bridges and Ferries, State Asylums and was chairman of the committee on Public Health during both terms.
   In 1904 Douglass suffered the death of his wife of over thirty years, Charlotte (nicknamed "Lottie".) Astyanax M. Douglass followed her to the grave four years later on March 1, 1908 at age 69 and was interred alongside his wife at the Covington Cemetery in Hill County, Texas. In an aside note to the preceding, there happens to be a second man named Astyanax Douglass, who was born in 1897 in Covington, Texas. Astyanax Saunders Douglass (presumably a relative; possibly even a grandson of the above) went on to play Major League Baseball and served as the Cincinnati Reds catcher from 1921-1925. He died in January 1975.

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