Born 1793 in Tennessee, Sam Houston spent much of his younger years amongst the Cherokee. He joined the Army and distinguished himself in the War of 1812, which lead him into politics after future president Andrew Jackson developed an interest in his career. He served two terms in Congress and was elected governor of Tennessee in 1827.
In 1832, after his marriage ended, Houston made his way to Texas. He was interested in land speculation as well as negotiations with Indians there as a representative of both the United States and the Cherokee. His underlying purpose was to push for the Texans to revolt against the Mexican government with the backing of Jackson. After the fall of the Alamo in March of 1836, Houston retreated to the east but troops under his leadership won Texan independence several weeks later at San Jacinto by defeating the Mexican forces under the command of Santa Anna, the Mexican president, and capturing him.
Houston served two terms as president of the Republic of Texas. Although most Texans strongly supported a move towards U.S. statehood, the United States feared such a move. Slavery was growing in Texas and at the time was constitutionally protected, which meant annexing Texas would upset the balance between slave and free states.
Before president James Polk, who made annexation of Texas part of his political platform, took office in 1845, Congress annexed Texas and in June of 1845 granted statehood. Houston became a senator in 1846, holding the position until 1859. He held steadfastly to the principle that "the Union must be preserved" and became increasingly at odds with other southern senators. The support of Texans began to wane as well, and Houston failed in his bid to become governor in 1857, although he rebounded to win the office in 1859.
In January of 1861, the state of Texas held a secession convention over the protest of Houston. Defeated by a popular vote in favor of secession, Houston accepted Texas leaving the Union but refused to have any affiliation with the new Confederacy. He was then deposed by the convention and retired from public life. Two years later he died.