The Monument of Thomas J. Rusk at Oak Grove Cemetery in Historic Nacogdoches
Thomas J. Rusk was born in the Pendleton District of South Carolina on December 5, 1803.
He worked as a clerk in the county office, studied law, was admitted to the bar, and began the
practice of law in 1825 after which he moved to Clarksville, Georgia and married Polly Cleveland
daughter of General John Cleveland with whom he engaged in a business partnership.
In 1834 Rusk came to Texas pursuing individuals who had embezzled some of his funds. These
were never recovered but he settled in Nacogdoches with his family and after hearing the citizens
denounce the despotism of Mexico he joined the independence movement.
As a delegate from Nacogdoches to the Convention of 1836 Rusk signed the Texas Declaration
of Independence and served on the committee to revise the constitution. After the Fall of the
Alamo Rusk helped President Burnet move the government to Harrisburg, and on April 21, 1836
he was a commander of the Texas Army that decisively defeated Mexico at the Battle of San Jacinto.
Under President Houston's first administration Rusk was appointed Secretary of War and represented
Nacogdoches in the Second Congress of the Republic. In 1838 he commanded the militia that
suppressed the Cordova Rebellion. In this same year he was elected Chief Justic of the Supreme
Court and established the rule of Mandamus against public officers. In 1840 Rusk resigned this
position to return to the practice of law, entering into a partnership with J. Pinckney Henderson, the
first governor of Texas. Later Rusk headed the bar of the Republic of Texas. In 1845 as president of
the Convention he supported the annexation of Texas to the United States. His legal knowledge
contributed significantly to the constitution of the new state. Rusk helped to establish Nacogdoches
University, the first non-sectarian university in the state, and for a time was president of this institution.
In February of 1846 the first state legislature elected Rusk and Houston to served in the United
states Senate. Rusk was popular in his party and was encouraged to become a presidential candidate
in 1856.16 President Buchanan offered him the position of Postmaster General
in 1857 and during that year the United States Senate elected him president pro tem.
Despondant over the death of his wife in 1856 and suffering from a fatal illness Rusk took his own
life on July 29, 1857. The Texas Centennial Commission placed this monument at the graves of
Rusk and his wife in 1936. The town of Rusk and Rusk County are named in his honor. The following
is an excerpt from the report that Rusk wrote to President Burnet after serving as a commander of the
Texas Army in the victory at the Battle of San Jacinto:
(Next Picture: Mary's Monument)
(Oak Grove Outline)