Walter Moses Burton- The First African American Sheriff

Who says history doesn’t happen in your backyard? Take a look at the first African American Sheriff in the country and his success.


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Walter Moses Burton is a prime example of leading the African American community.

By Eryn Rainer, Staff Writer

Walter Moses Burton was born in 1829 and was brought to Texas in 1850 as a slave from North Carolina. Burton belonged to Thomas Burke Burton who owned plantations and farms in Fort Bend County.

Burton was later sold plots of land for $1,900 by his owner after the civil war. The land made him “one of the wealthiest and most influential Blacks in Fort Bend County,” Texas State Historical Association said. On September 26, 1868, Burton married Abby “Hattie” Jones. They had one son named Horace who later died in 1865.

One of the wealthiest and most influential Blacks in Fort Bend County.

— Texas State Historical Association

Burton was elected sheriff of Fort Bend County in 1869. He became not only the first African American Sheriff in Texas but also the first in the country. He also severed as President of the Fort Bend County Union League. The Union League was a secret organization established in the North to support Abraham Lincoln’s policies.

Burton later went on to win a seat in the Texas Senate in 1873 however his first term was shortened by a contested election and the Constitutional Convention of 1875. Burton served from 1874 to 1882. A year later he served as a member of the State Executive Committee for the Republican Party at the state convention of 1873 and later as vice president.

Through his work in the Senate, he helped push for a bill to establish Prairie View Normal School, a Historically Black College, now called Prairie View A&M the second oldest public University in Texas.

Burton was the last African American Senator elected by the time he left in 1873. This later changed when Barbara Jordan, a Houston native, was elected into the senate in 1966 becoming the first African American woman in the Texas senate.

Burton passed away on June 4, 1913, in Fort Bend County and was buried in Morton Cemetery in Richmond, Tx. Burton was a trailblazer for African Americans to serve in their community. In January 2021, Eric Fagan became the first African American Sheriff of Fort Bend county in over 150 years, who also followed in Burton’s footsteps by graduating from Prairie View A&M.