Biographical or Historical Information
Born February 6, 1805 in Mt. Airy, Surrey County, North Carolina to Thomas Adams and Justiana Dickerson Word, Thomas Jefferson Word went on to become an accomplished lawyer, legislator and soldier in North Carolina, Mississippi and Texas.
Not much is known about Word's childhood and early adulthood in North Carolina. He did achieve however, the rank of colonel in the state militia and served the state in its House of Commons (1832-1833) before leaving for Mississippi sometime between 1834 and 1835.
Word settled in the town of Pontotoc. Admitted to the Mississippi bar November 11, 1836, Word became a respected and well-known area lawyer and politician. He served as Pontotoc County district attorney and in the state legislature. Word was elected as a Whig to the U. S. House of Representatives for one term (May 30, 1838 - March 3, 1839) after a contested election. Subsequently, he was Mississippi's elector in the Electoral College for the 1840 Presidential Election.
That same year Word married Mary Elizabeth Jackson (July 14, 1840). They had five children--Justiana "Jettie", John Jackson, Mary E. [died as an infant], Thomas Jefferson "Jeff", and Sarah Mary Elizabeth. In the 1840s, Word moved the family to bustling Holly Springs in Marshall County, Mississippi. In 1849, he became an elected delegate to the 1850 Southern States Convention in Nashville. Word's wife Mary passed March 13, 1852, but he remarried to Mary Ann Sternes (b.1822) a year later on July 12, 1853. They had one son, Horace*, in 1853 before moving to Texas in 1855.
Word and his family settled in Palestine, Anderson County and he opened a law practice. Word and his second wife had several more children (Anna and James S.). On the eve of the Civil War, Word was Anderson County's delegate to Texas's 1861 Secession Convention. Mary Ann Stearnes died in 1869, but Word remarried a third time to Mary Lucretia Boothe Jackson, the widow of Frederick S. Jackson, on May 10, 1871. They had one child, Eoline. Word's final political office was that of state senator for Anderson County from 1873-1875. After this service, Word retired to his law practice. He remained very active through the 1880s, writing author Joseph D. Shields, "I am in fine health and still actively engaged in my profession, and although so advanced in age, I can do as much work in my profession as most of the young men."
Word was held in high esteem by his fellow citizens. Reminiscing about the election for Pontotoc County, MS district attorney in the 1830s, opponent Rueben Davis wrote this about Word: "He was a remarkably fine-looking man, and his manner was polished and agreeable....[H]e had a fine, humorous way of telling anecdotes, and could play well upon the violin. He was a good lawyer and a most agreeable stump-speaker. If I also add that he was a courteous and honorable gentleman, I do him no more than justice." Later, Davis wrote, "no man has ever questioned his learning and ability as a lawyer, or his honor, courage, and fidelity to his friends."
Further testament to Word's character and community contributions are evident in the response of Palestine when he passed May 25, 1890. Schools in town were adjourned the day of his funeral and the entire county bar attended the ceremony.
- Word is the great-great-great-grandfather of the donor, Julie Harrison. He was the maternal uncle of William Faulkner.
- *Horace Word later married Catherine "Kate" Rosine Sterne, the grand-daughter of Adolphus Sterne.
- There is a vertical file for Thomas Jefferson Word at the Mississippi State Archives.
“Col Thomas Jefferson “T. J.” Word.” Find A Grave Memorial No. 20060912. Online at www.findagrave.com (Accessed 19 April 2012).
Davis, Reuben. Recollections of Mississippi and Mississippians (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1889) pp.65-72, 94. Online at books.google.com (Accessed 19 April 2012).
Fant, H. B. “Word, Thomas Jefferson.” In Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Volume 6. Edited by William S. Powell (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), p.269.
Lowery, Robert, and William H. McCardle. A History of Mississippi: From the Discovery of the Great River by Hernando DeSoto, Including the Earliest Settlement Made by the French Under Iberville, to the Death of Jefferson Davis (Jackson, MS: R.H. Henry & Company, 1891), p.628. Online at books.google.com (Accessed 19 April 2012).
Martin, Shirley. “Robert F. Stephens a.k.a. David Brown.” Stirpes 38, no.2 (June 1998), p.14.
National Society Daughters of the American Revolution of North Carolina. John Hoyle Chapter, Hickory. Historical Sketches of North Carolina from 1584-1851 (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Company, 1851), pp.410-411. Online at books.google.com (Accessed 19 April 2012).
Shields, Joseph D. Life and Times of Seargent Smith Prentiss (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1884), pp.434-435. Online at books.google.com (Accessed 19 April 2012).
Williamson, Joel. William Faulkner and Southern History (London: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp.38-39.Note written by Julie Harrison and Kyle Ainsworth