Few here in North Texas know his history. His home was in San Antonio but the statue seen above is less than an hour’s drive from downtown Dallas. Why there and not in San Antonio?
José Antonio Navarro was born to Spanish parents at San Antonio de Béxar on February 27, 1795. According to the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), his father was a native of Corsica, and his mother was descended from a noble Spanish family.
He was a self-taught lawyer licensed to practice law in San Antonio.
Navarro ardently supported Stephen F. Autin’s efforts to colonize Texas. He and Austin developed a deep friendship that endured the rest of their natural lives.
While Texas was still a part of Mexico, Navarro was elected to the Coahuila and Texas State Legislature and also to the Federal Congress located in Mexico City.
Along with his uncle, José Francisco Ruiz, and Lorenzo de Zavala, he became one of the three Tejano signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence of March 2, 1836. There were 59 delegates to the convention.
Clarification on Ethnicity – There were four ethnic groups living in Texas at the time of the War of Independence from Mexico: Texians (Anglos & Europeans), Tejanos (Spaniards & Mexicans), indigenous Indians, and black slaves of African descent. The latter two played no role in the Revolution. I will be writing a separate summary of the role of black slaves in Texas history.
The people of Bexar (San Antonio) elected Navarro to the Texas Congress as their representative. One of his chief goals was to protect the rights of Tejanos.
As it is with all of us, José Antonio Navarro’s political choices weren’t always good choices. He sided with Mirabeau B. Lamar in opposition to Sam Houston’s policies. Navarro participated in the ill-fated and unwise Santa Fe expedition that landed him in a Mexican prison for fourteen months. He was able to escape and return to Texas.
There was one other unwise decision which he shared with Stephen F. Austin. In the time before the Revolution; the two supported the election of Antonio López de Santa Anna to the presidency of Mexico. Santa Anna was one of those people who would take both sides of issues. I must confess I have also supported politicians who flip-flopped on principles and values.
He was the sole Hispanic delegate to the Convention of 1845, which was assembled to accept or reject the American proposal; after voting in the affirmative, he remained to help write the first state constitution, the Constitution of 1845. He was subsequently twice elected to the state Senate, though in 1849 he refused to run again. In 1846, in recognition of his contributions to Texas over the years, the legislature named the newly established Navarro County in his honor. The county seat was then designated Corsicana, in honor of his father’s Corsican birth. As a devout Catholic, Navarro strongly condemned Sam Houston’s association with the nativist and anti-Catholic American (Know-Nothing) party. He was equally critical of Houston’s pro-Union vote on the Kansas-Nebraska issue. Always a strong advocate of states’ rights, in 1861 he defended the right of Texas to secede from the Union. Although he was too advanced in years to participate in the Civil War, his four sons served in the Confederate military. In 1825 Navarro married Margarita de la Garza; they had seven children. He died on January 13, 1871. – TSHA, Navarro, José Antonio
Texas history is replete with imperfect men who founded the Republic of Texas, yet God by his Grace finishes the work by which Texas has become the greatest state in the Union.
José Antonio Navarro died at the age of 76 years on January 13, 1871, and is buried in the Texas State Cemetery, Section: Confederate Field, Section 2 (D) Row: A Number: 6, San Antonio, Texas.
I invite you to join me in honoring the name and memory of one of the most prominent founding fathers of Texas: José Antonio Navarro.