Forward Thinking

'Jewish' County and the Texas Prosecutor Murders

By Michael Kaminer

  • Print
  • Share Share
wikipedia
David Spangler Kaufman

The sprawling Texas county where two prosecutors have been shot in recent weeks has the unlikeliest of Jewish roots.

Kaufman County, a 780-square-mile jurisdiction just 20 miles southeast of Dallas, is named for David Spangler Kaufman. He holds a place in history books as a lawmaker in the Republic of Texas and was the only Jewish Texan to serve in the U.S. Congress until the 1970s.

The county, in which dog bites and escaped cows usually make up the police blotter, has made national headlines for the shocking recent killings of local law officials. County district attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found shot to death inside their home in the Kaufman County town of Forney on Saturday.

UPDATE: The Texas prosecutor and his wife who were shot at their home on Saturday each suffered multiple gunshot wounds, and sheriff’s deputies found cartridge casings next to their bodies, according to an affidavit reviewed by Reuters on Tuesday.

On Jan. 31, one of McLelland’s lead prosecutors, Mark E. Hasse, was shot and killed in a parking lot as he strolled to his office at the county courthouse.

The murders took place in an area named for a Jewish pioneer who did his home state proud. According to the Texas State Historical Association, David Spangler Kaufman (1813–1851) was a “lawyer, Indian fighter, and politician.” Pennsylvania-born, Princeton-educated Kaufman began his legal career in Natchitoches, Louisiana, in 1835. Two years later he settled in Nacogdoches, Texas, where he continued practicing law.

Kaufman “occupied a number of important positions in the republic and state of Texas,” the Historical Association explains. Between 1838 and 1841 he represented Nacogdoches County in the House of the Third Congress of the republic of Texas; he served as speaker in the Fourth and Fifth congresses. From December 1843 through June 1845 he represented Shelby, Sabine, and Harrison counties in the Senate of the republic of Texas.

Texas president Anson Jones named him chargé d’affaires to the United States in February 1845; he served as Texas’ first US representative until his death in 1851. “No other Jewish Texan served in Congress until the 1970s,” the Association notes.

Kaufman died in Washington, D.C., and was buried in the Congressional Cemetery there. In 1932 his remains were moved to the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. Kaufman County and the city of Kaufman are named for him.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: texas, kaufman county, jewish, david spangler kaufman, Mike McLelland

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.