Thomas Jefferson Rusk was lured to Texas from Georgia in 1832. He was chasing business partners who had absconded with his money and fled westward. When he arrived in Nacogdoches, he decided to stay.
Born December 5, 1803 in South Carolina, Rusk studied law and was admitted to the bar through the influence of John C. Calhoun. He moved to Clarksville, Georgia in 1825 where he practiced law. He married two years later.
In Texas, Rusk settled in the Nacogdoches area where in 1835 he organized a company of volunteers to aid in Texas’ cause for independence. He was elected as a representative from Nacogdoches to the Convention of 1836, and thus became a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. The convention elected him secretary of war, and he soon afterward participated in the Battle of San Jacinto.
After independence was won, Rusk was elected to the Second Congress of the Republic, and later led several campaigns against Indians in east Texas. He became president of the Convention of 1845, and was a strong advocate for the annexation of Texas into the Union. The following year, he and Sam Houston were elected the first Senators to represent Texas in Washington, DC.
In the U. S. Senate, Rusk served several terms as head of the committee on Postal Affairs. For a period in 1855, he served as president pro tem of the U. S. Senate.
Following his wife’s death in 1856, Rusk became despondent, and took his own life on July 29, 1857. He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Nacogdoches.