Houston’s first mayor, James Sanders Holman, was born on February 7, 1804, to Isaac and Polly Anne (Wiggleworth) Holman in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Holman married his cousin, Martha Wilson Holman, on February 23, 1822. Holman left Tennessee and traveled to San Augustine, Texas in 1834. Shortly after, other family members joined him. He fought in the siege of Bexar (San Antonio), which was the first major campaign of the Texas Revolution. For his service, he was granted land by the Republic of Texas and later by the State of Texas.
Holman was in Houston by 1836, and worked as an agent for the founders of Houston, Augustus C. and John K. Allen. The original survey of Houston was completed in 1836 by Gail Borden, Jr. and his brother Thomas H. Borden. The survey bears the names of Holman, the Allen brothers, and Thomas J. Gazley. Gazley also signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. Holman worked as an agent for the Houston Town Company advertising lots and a prospective bank by the Texas Railroad, Navigation, and Banking Company. He was Houston’s first mayor from August 28, 1837, until November 1837. In August 1838, Holman made an unsuccessful bid for Congress. From February 1839 until April 1841, he worked as clerk for the Houston-Galveston court.
After leaving the district court, Holman appointed Thomas M. Bagby his agent. Holman traveled to New York and Washington in the early 1840s to gather support for the annexation of Texas to the United States. He also promoted the railroads and engaged in land speculation. Holman’s wife and children moved from Tennessee to Travis County about 1854. He served on the Texas State Military Board during the Civil War in 1864 until its dissolution in 1865. Holman suffered a bout of yellow fever after the war while supervising the construction of the Houston and Texas Central Railway. While recovering from the yellow fever, he died on December 8, 1867, after catching pneumonia. His death occurred near Bryan, Texas, and the site of his burial is unknown.
Holman Avenue in Houston is named in honor of James Sanders Holman. It runs northwest from Cullen Boulevard in the heart of the University of Houston to U.S. 59. It intersects Emancipation Parkway (formerly Dowling Street).