Mirabeau B. Lamar
Leader of the Opposition
Lamar had just returned to Texas, armed with funds from his brothers for investing in Texas lands, when word reached him of the massacres at the Alamo and Goliad, where his friend James Fannin was murdered. Lamar at once enlisted in the Texas army as a private.
In a skirmish with Mexican troops, Lamar saved the lives of secretary of war Thomas J. Rusk and Walter P. Lane, later to become a top military leader. For his courage and quick thinking, and in recognition of his leadership ability, General Houston commissioned Lamar a colonel and placed him in charge of the cavalry. The following day was April 21, 1836. The place was San Jacinto. Lamar's cavalry distinguished themselves that day, and the newcomer to Texas had earned his right to be a Texan.
Ten days later, as a reward for his performance, President Burnet named Lamar secretary of war. Burnet attempted to appoint Lamar as commander of the Texas army. The army was near mutiny, and Burnet thought Lamar was popular enough to bring some order to a dangerous situation. Lamar traveled to Victoria to take command of the troops and soon learned that many of them despised Burnet to such a degree that they would not accept him as commander. Lamar accepted a proposal that the men vote on his generalship. The result was embarrassing: Lamar received just 179 votes out of over 1500 cast.
Lamar withdrew from the job and returned to private life for a few months. He then threw his hat in the ring for the first elections in Texas. He was elected vice-president under Sam Houston, his old commander at San Jacinto. Houston was a strong president with little use for an assistant, and he and Lamar quickly developed a dislike for each other that would ripen into hatred. Lamar spent his time traveling, studying Spanish, and collecting historical memorabilia.
In 1838, Lamar began to build a plantation house in Richmond that he called "The Oak Grove." He was finally settled enough for a visit from his daughter Rebecca, now eleven years old. Besides the reunion, he was gearing up for the biggest political challenge of his life. Lamar decided to run for president as head of the anti-Houston faction.
The campaign was hard fought at first but took a bizarre turn. Lamar's opponent, attorney and diplomat Peter Grayson, had a history of mental illness. Grayson committed suicide during a period of severe depression. The candidate chosen to replace Grayson, chief justice James Collinsworth, fell or jumped from a boat in Galveston after a week-long drinking binge and drowned. The final opponent, Texas Senator Robert Wilson, entered the race with only a few days to go before the election. Lamar won by a huge margin of victory.