Born on a farm near Tadmor, Texas, on February 26, 1881, Nat Patton was the third child of Francis Marion and Elizabeth Patton, who had a total of eighteen children. His father, Francis, briefly moved the family to Brown County, Texas, in the mid-1880s, but in 1889 they returned to rural Houston County. There, young Nat attended local schools, including one at Cedar Point. His primary instructor was an Oxford graduate, Sir John Noble Herbert, who initially came to visit the United States, but ended up opening his own school in East Texas.
After studying with Herbert, Patton moved to Huntsville, Texas, and enrolled at Sam Houston Normal Institute. He then became an educator himself and taught on and off from 1899 to 1918 in Houston, Dickens, Fisher, and Trinity counties. Patton also continued to farm during this period, never giving up on his East Texas roots.
In 1907, Patton married Mattie Taylor and together they raised four children: Bessie Louise, Weldon Taylor, Nat Jr., and Bonnie Beatrice. The young family man was popular in his rural area and successfully ran for and served two terms, from 1913 to 1917, as a state representative in the Texas legislature. He also attended law school at the University of Texas during this period and was admitted to the Texas bar in 1918. That year, he began practicing law in Crockett County and also served as the Houston County Judge from 1918 until 1922. These efforts brought further recognition, and Patton won election to and served in the State senate from 1929 to 1934.
Following his time in the Texas legislature, Patton made a successful run in 1934 to serve as the representative of the Seventh Texas Congressional District in the U.S. Congress. Taking up residence in Washington D.C. in January 1935, he took the oath of office and began a 10-year period of service. As a congressman, Patton became known, in Lady Bird Johnson’s words, as “a professional East Texan.” He dressed in a white suit and bow tie, referred to everyone -- even Mary Pickford and Queen Elizabeth -- as “cousin,” and generally addressed the rural farming issues of the day. Historian Robert Caro referred to Patton as an “ultra-conservative,” but the congressman was not afraid to support Franklin D. Roosevelt when he agreed with president. In fact, President Roosevelt appreciated Patton’s flair and good-nature, referring to the congressman as everyone else did, by calling him “Cousin Nat.”
In 1944, with a mixed legislative record that included aid to farmers, anti-strike legislation, resistance to poll-tax reform, and support for Social Security, Patton faced challenger Tom Pickett in the Democratic primary. Pickett made much of the fact that three of Patton’s family members had received jobs in Washington via the congressman, and defeated “Cousin Nat” to secure his party’s nomination. That November, Pickett won the Seventh District seat, and Patton went to work for the Veteran’s Administration before returning to his law practice in Crockett, Texas, where he lived until 1957. Nat Patton was buried in Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery in Crockett.