Walter Moses Burton:
The First Black Elected Sheriff in the United States
Walter Moses Burton, born into the Maafa (slavery) in North Carolina was brought to Fort Bend County, Texas as a slave from North Carolina in 1850 at the age of twenty-one. He was taught how to read and write by his enslaver Thomas Burke Burton .
After the Civil War, his former slave master sold Burton several large plots of land for $1,900, making him one of the wealthiest and most influential Blacks in Fort Bend County. In 1869, Burton was elected sheriff and tax collector of Fort Bend County, whee Blacks outnumbered Whites.
He was the first African- American elected to public office in Fort Bend County. He served as Sheriff and Tax Collector until 1873 using a white deputy to arrest any law breakers. In 1873 Burton campaigned for and won a seat in the Texas Senate, where he served for seven years, from 1874 to 1875 and from 1876 to 1882. He was one of only four African- Americans to be elected to the Senate in the 19th century. Burton is best known for opposing county convict labor and helping to found Prairie View A&M University (which remains today as an one of America's Historic Black Colleges and Universities or HBCU)
Burton also served the Republican Party as a member of the State Executive Committee at the state convention of 1873, as vice president of the 1878 and 1880 conventions, and as a member of the Committee on Platform and Resolutions at the 1892 state convention. Burton left the Senate in 1882 . He remained active in state and local politics until he died in 1913.
He and his son Horace are buried in Morton Cemetery in Richmond. At the time, they were the only African-Americans laid to rest in Morton Cemetery, which had previously been a whites-only cemetery.