Famous Political Graves
Alexander Hamilton. Revolutionary War Continental Army Officer, United States Constitution Signer, Presidential Cabinet Secretary. The thirteen states after the Revolutionary War were weak and still separate. Alexander Hamilton was the strong voice calling for a strong united government with a new Constitution and then most instrumental in the formation and convening of the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia which established the United States of America. He was born southeast of Florida on Nevis, a small island making up the group in the Caribbean known as the West Indies. His mother was unwed and the daughter of a doctor and his father a merchant. He was tutored but mostly self educated while growing up in St Croix where his mother died when he was eleven forcing him to support himself. Finding employment in the office of a Merchant, becoming most capable while writing and submitting articles to a local newspaper which were published. He became liked and well known as was his ambition to attend college. The local merchants recognizing his talents, paid to educate him, funding his venture to New York where he entered King’s College (Columbia). He soon became an activist for independence from Britain and his enthusiasm encouraged entry into the army serving as George Washington’s chief military aide. Hamilton distinguished himself taking part in many battles. His main contribution was as commander of the troops during the Battle of Yorktown. He represented the state of New York at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. The new Constitution written, Hamilton worked to have it accepted by speech making and using the pamphleteer method for publishing favorable articles. George Washington as President, appointed him to the first nations cabinet as Secretary of the Treasury at age 34. Hamilton became its most prominent member outlining the new nation’s monetary policy, raising funds to pay off the Revolutionary War debts and funding the administration. During his tenure, he left behind a staggering legacy: He restored public credit in a nation bankrupted by war debt, devised the first tax, budget, accounting systems, installed the Customs Service, Coast Guard while conceiving the first central bank. Hamilton had opposed Aaron Burr when he was running for President and again when running for governor of New York. Hamilton surmised Burr was not fit to occupy either office and through his influence had him defeated. It was the custom to settle serious arguments with pistols at close range. Burr then Vice President, challenged Hamilton to a duel and the challenge was accepted. They met at dawn the next morning across the Hudson at Weehawken, New Jersey. Hamilton did not intend to shoot Burr but his opponent shot to kill and seriously wounded Hamilton. He was conveyed by boat back to Manhattan and spend his final hours at a house on Jane Street where he received medical attention. He requested communion and it was administered by the rector from the family’s nearby Trinity Church and his death followed at the young age of 49. With bells tolling, a large procession followed the body from Jane Street to Trinity Church where his close friend Gouverneur Morris, a leading figure at the Constitutional Convention and former minister to France, gave the emotional funeral oration. He joined his eldest son Philip, already interred in the Trinity churchyard also killed in a duel. His faithful wife Elizabeth joined him there some fifty years later. His killer, Aaron Burr branded an assassin, fled south in anticipation of pending indictments and the vice president became a fugitive from justice. Postscript: A museum was constructed on the foundation of the structure where Alexander Hamilton was born. It not only highlights the history of Nevis Island but has many artifacts pertaining to Hamilton and is located in Charleston. Weehawken, New Jersey-the site of the duel: the actual rock on which rested the head of Alexander Hamilton after being shot and referred to as the death rock, was moved from the actual site and taken to a nearby lofty perch, made into a base on which a bronze head of Hamilton was affixed.
Aaron Burr, Jr. United States Vice President. After serving as a Major in the Continental Army under General George Washington in the Revolutionary War, he became a successful lawyer and politician. In 1789, he was appointed Attorney General of New York and was elected to the US Senate in 1791, serving for six years. In 1800, he became the 3rd United States Vice President in the administration of President Thomas Jefferson. Nearing the end of his term as vice president, he challenged Alexander Hamilton to a duel for besmirching his reputation. On the morning of July 7, 1804, it ended when Burr shot Hamilton to death. Though the public cried murder, Burr was let off and was able to complete his vice-presidential term. In 1807, he was brought to trial on charges of conspiracy for leading a military charge against Spanish Territory and for trying to separate territories from the United States. He was aquited of the charges but the conspiracy scandal ended his political career. He spent his final years traveling throughout Europe and after returning to America, died at age 80 from multiple strokes.
John Sidney McCain, III. United States Naval Officer, US Congressman, US Senator. He was elected as a Republican to represent Arizona’s 1st Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives, serving from January 3, 1983 to January 3, 1987, and then as a Republican Senator from Arizona to the United States Senate, serving from January 3, 1987 until his death in office on August 25, 2018. He was also the Republican Party candidate for United States President in 2007, a race he lost to then-Illinois senator Barack Obama. The son of Admiral John Sidney McCain Jr, and grandson of Admiral John Sidney McCain, he graduated from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland near the bottom of his class in 1958, which was attributed to indifference to both disciplinary rules and academic subjects he was not interested in. He went on to serve in the United States Navy as a ground-attack pilot during the War in Vietnam, achieving the rank of Captain. In 1967, he was nearly killed in a severe accidental fire aboard the aircraft carrier “USS Forrestal” (CV-59), which was stationed in the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam. Later that year, he was shot down over Hanoi and captured by the North Vietnamese. He spent five and half years as a prisoner-of-war, where he endured torture and years of solitary confinement before being released in 1973. Upon his arrival back in the United States, he received several military awards including the Silver Star and Legion of Merit. In 1977, he became the Navy’s liaison to the United States Senate and four years later, retired from the Navy. In 1982, he ran, as a Republican, in the 1st District of Arizona and was successful in the general election that fall. He went on to serve in the House of Representatives for four years before deciding to seek the Senate seat of retiring Senator Barry Goldwater in 1986. He was successful in his Senate run and went to serve in the Senate for almost six terms before his passing. During his tenure in the Senate, he chaired the Senate Indian Affairs, Commerce and Armed Services Committees. He was considered a “maverick” through most of his tenure and took various stances on issues that were contradictory to his party’s leadership in the Senate. He was the co-sponsor of the major campaign reform bill, the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, parts of which were later struck down by the Supreme Court. In 2000, he made an unsuccessful run for the Republican presidential nomination, but eight years later, was successful in gaining his party’s presidential nomination. He, along with running mate, Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, were defeated in the general election by the Democratic ticket of Barack Obama and Joseph Biden. He continued his “maverick” stance in the Senate through the remainder of his tenure in the Senate. He was diagnosed with glioblastoma in 2017 and underwent treatment before ending the treatment right before his passing. He also co-authored several books during his career.
John Hancock. Declaration of Independence Signer. His signature on the document was so bold that when people sign their names, they are said to have written their “John Hancock.” Born in Braintree, Massachusetts, where his father was a minister. When he was seven years old, his father died suddenly, and his uncle, Thomas Hancock, one of the wealthiest merchants in Boston, adopted him and raised him. John graduated from Harvard College in 1754 and joined his uncle in his business, inheriting the company upon his uncle’s death in 1764. In 1768, when one of his merchant ships, the Liberty, was seized by customs officials, Hancock felt the seizure was unfair and soon became a vocal critic of the British policies. In 1769, he won election to the Massachusetts Legislature, and in 1774, attended the First Continental Congress, and the following year, the Second Continental Congress. Because of his leadership, he was elected to serve as President of both Continental Congresses. On April 19, 1775, the British Army marched out of Boston to Lexington, in part to capture Hancock and patriot Samuel Adams, and it was Paul Reveres ride that gave them warning to flee.
Samuel Adams. Declaration of Independence Signer, Massachusetts Governor. The cousin to John Adams, second President of the United States, he was a leading speaker in the cause of American Independence. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of a respected landowner and brewer, he attended Harvard College, graduating in 1740. Entering private business, he was never a success at it, and by 1764, he was deeply in debt. As poor a businessman as he was, he was a greater success in politics, and founded a number of patriotic societies, and was active in Boston town meetings. He openly opposed the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, and spoke out against British colonial policy. From 1765 to 1774, he served in the Massachusetts legislature, and as its clerk, corresponded widely with other colonial leaders. Writing for the Boston newspapers, he condemned what he considered British government tyranny and in 1772, set up the Committee of Correspondence, which kept other colonial leaders informed as to what was happening in each of the colonies. A founding member of the Sons of Liberty, Adams is believed to have helped organize and signaled the Boston Tea Party in 1773, an act that in 1774 made King George III close Boston Harbor and to declare the colony in a state of rebellion. Calling for a congressional congress made up of representatives from each of the colonies, Adams and four others represented Massachusetts in the First Continental Congress in 1774. In 1775, he was selected for the Second Continental Congress, which produced the Declaration of Independence, and Adams signed for Massachusetts. Continuing to serve in Congress until 1781, he worked on numerous congressional committees, and supported George Washington as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army.
Robert Francis Kennedy. US Senator, Presidential Cabinet Secretary. He was the third son of Joseph Kennedy, Sr. and the brother of both US President John F. Kennedy and Senator Edward Kennedy. Known as ‘Bobby,’ he started his career as an attorney in the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice in 1951. While there he served in several legal capacities, culminating as the chief counsel of Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor or Management Field from 1957 to 1960. It was here that he made a national name for himself as he waged war on racketeering in the labor movement, and had several public confrontations with Teamsters Leader Jimmy Hoffa. He left that position to serve as Campaign Manager for the Presidential election of his brother in 1960. Upon John Kennedy’s election (and after much personal and family debating) Bobby, only 36, accepted the position of Attorney General in his brother’s administration, making him the youngest person ever to hold that office. He stayed on as Attorney General after the assassination of John Kennedy until September 3rd, 1964 when he finally resigned. Later that year he moved his family to New York. He ran a successful campaign and was elected as a Democratic Senator from New York to the United States Senate, taking office in early 1965. In 1968 he was a late entry into the Presidential campaign. However, he was gaining momentum and on June 4th, 1968, he won the California Primary and seemed posed to win the Democratic Presidential nomination. While at a victory party that evening at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, he was shot by assassin Sirhan Sirhan, and later died at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, California.
Rev John Witherspoon. Declaration of Independence Signer. Born in Scotland to a family of clergymen, he was trained to become a Presbyterian minister. At the age of four, he could read the Bible. At the age of 13, he entered college and at age 20, he was licensed to preach. In 1746, he helped to raise troops to fight Scottish rebels who were rebelling against English domination in Scotland. The rebels captured him, imprisoned him in a castle, and threatened to kill him. Although he was released unharmed a few days later, he later had trouble sleeping, and would often faint in broad-daylight. Nonetheless, he became on of Scotland’s leading Presbyterian ministers. In 1768, he left Scotland to travel to New Jersey, to accept a position as President of the College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton University). His wife, Elizabeth, with whom he had ten children, wanted to stay in Scotland, but he finally was able to convince her to come with him. For the next 26 years, he would serve as Princeton’s President, helping to make it a great institution for higher learning. John Witherspoon would profess that he loved his new home in New Jersey, and that he had “become an American the moment he landed.” He quickly sided with the patriots who favored independence, and in June 1776, he was elected to Congress. On July 2, 1776, the day of the vote on independence, another delegate claimed that America wasn’t yet ripe enough for independence. Witherspoon immediately declared “It is not only ripe for the measure, but in danger of rotting for the want of it.” Witherspoon became the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence. Between 1776 and 1782, Witherspoon would serve on more than 100 committees, wearing his minister’s robes in Congress to remind the delegates that God was on their side. Despite personal setbacks Witherspoon never lost his belief that America would prevail in the struggle for independence. In 1777, his son was killed at the Battle of Germantown, and later that year, the British burned their home. In addition, part of the Battle of Princeton in 1777 was fought on the college campus – the college was so badly damaged that it was closed for several years. After the Revolutionary War, he continued to serve as President of the College of New Jersey, but spend several years working to rebuild the college. He was a member of the New Jersey convention that ratified the US Constitution, making New Jersey the third state to approve the Constitution. Elizabeth Witherspoon died in 1789. Two years later, the 68-year old minister married 24 year old Ann Dill, with whom he would have two daughters. John Witherspoon would die on his farm near Princeton in 1794 at the age of 71.
Robert Treat Paine. Signer of the Declaration of Independence from Massachusetts. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Paine graduated from Harvard University in 1749 at the age of 18, and taught school in Lunenburg, Massachusetts. Discovering he lacked the patience to teach, after one year, he began to sail about the Atlantic, going to Spain, the Azores, and Greenland. Returning home in 1754, he began to study law, and became a lawyer in 1757 in Taunton, Massachusetts. There he married Sally Cobb, who was already pregnant with their first child, and eventually they would have eight children. In the 1760s and early 1770s, he was active in the resistance movement to the hated Stamp Act and Townshend Acts, and quickly became a patriot for the cause of independence. In 1770, Boston hired him to prosecute the British soldiers involved with the “Boston Massacre,” and although he only convicted two of the eight soldiers (who were dismissed from the Army), he became popular among the patriots. In 1775, he was elected to the Second Continental Congress as a delegate from Massachusetts, and supported the move for independence. Following the war, he returned to his Massachusetts legal profession, and in 1779-80, he helped to write the Massachusetts constitution. In 1790, he because a justice of the state court, where he served until retiring in 1804 when he became too deaf to hear the cases. He was considered a conservative justice and very judgmental. When one of his sons, Robert Jr, married a stage actress, he disavowed his son (in those days, many people considered actors and actresses as morally corrupt people), reconciling just before his son died in 1811. He died at his home in 1814.
Charles Warren Fairbanks.United States Senator, 26th Vice President. Charles Warren Fairbanks served one term as the 26th U.S. Vice President, after being selected as the running mate of Theodore Roosevelt in 1904. Born into poverty in a log cabin, Fairbanks attended Ohio Wesleyan University, graduating with honors in 1872. He received a law degree from the Cleveland Law College on July 10, 1874, relocated to the State of Indiana, and became a very successful lawyer, specializing in railroad law. Over the course of his career, he became general solicitor for the Ohio Southern and the Dayton and Ironton railroads; president and principal stockholder of the Terre Haute and Peoria Railroad; and director, general solicitor and principal stockholder of the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad. During his days with these various railroad enterprises, he entered the world of Indiana Republican politics and campaigned on behalf of Civil War General Benjamin Harrison, who was elected President in 1888. In 1892 he met future United States President, William McKinley, who supported Fairbanks for the U.S. Senate in 1897. Serving in the United States Senate from 1897 to 1905, he was quietly effective, a conservative, and quickly became acknowledged as the principal spokesman for that body. He served as key presidential adviser to McKinley during the Spanish-American War and was the Chairman of the Committee on Immigration and the Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds. At one point, he was seriously being considered as a presidential candidate.. In June 1904, Fairbanks was selected as the Republican vice presidential nominee to run with presidential candidate, Teddy Roosevelt. During his four years in office, Fairbanks played little or no role in the Roosevelt administration, as he opposed many of Roosevelt’s progressive programs. As a result, Roosevelt supported William Howard Taft for the 1908 Republican presidential nomination. When the party was divided in 1912, Fairbanks supported Taft, the eventual nominee, instead of Roosevelt, who ran as the candidate of his own Bull Moose Party. Fairbanks was a vice presidential candidate again in 1916, this time on the unsuccessful Republican ticket with Charles Evans Hughes, Sr., who lost in a close race to Woodrow Wilson. Fairbanks was one of two vice presidential candidates that ran in non-consecutive political races; both candidates lost the race. After the election, his health declined rapidly with his death from renal failure within two years; he would have died in office if elected. He was sometimes referred to as “the last of America’s log-cabin statesmen.” Since he served as senator on the committee establishing the borderline between Alaska and Canada, the city of Fairbanks, Alaska was named in his honor. Also named in his honor were cities Fairbanks, Minnesota; Fairbanks, Oregon; and Fairbanks Township, Michigan. A historical marker has been placed at both his Indiana home and at his Ohio birthplace home.
John Winthrop. Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor. He was instrumental in leading the first large wave of colonists from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the first major settlement in New England after the Plymouth Colony. He was born at Edwardstone, Suffolk, England, to a wealthy landowning and merchant family. In December 1602, he was admitted to Trinity College but soon left and married his first wife, Mary Forth, in April 1605. During this time, he became deeply religious in the Puritan faith. In 1613, he received the family holdings in Groton, and became Lord of the Manor there. He soon followed his father’s path as a lawyer in London, having been enrolled at Gray’s Inn to study law. In 1624, Charles I ascended the English throne and was opposed to all religious groups who did not ascribe to the doctrine of the Church of England. In March 1629, Charles I dissolved the English Parliament and his continued religious intolerance and crackdown on the Puritans resulted in a decision for the some of the leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Company (who were mostly Puritans) to emigrate to New England. Winthrop was chosen as governor and on April 8, 1630, he sailed from the Isle of Wight with four ships that were part of a larger fleet of 11 ships, carrying 700 people to New England, arriving at Salem in June. They chose to settle at the present-day city of Boston, near the Charles River. In the early months the colony struggled with disease, losing about 200 people, including his son, Henry. He served as governor of the colony for 12 of its first 20 years of existence, being elected on four different occasions. He was generally civil and diplomatic towards the Native American population. However, cultural differences and trade issues, along with land ownership rights of the colonists that conflicted with the hunter-gatherer rights of the natives eventually evolved into a war with the Pequot tribe in 1637, which ended with the destruction of the tribe, whose survivors were sold as slaves to the West Indies or became enslaved by the colonists themselves. During his life, he continuously wrote accounts of historical events and religious manifestations. His major contributions to the literary world were “A Modell of Christian Charity” (1630) and “The History of New England” (1630-1649; also known as “The History of John Winthrop”), which remained unpublished until the late 18th century. He was married four times and had 16 children, his first three wives preceding him in death. He died of natural causes.
James Randolph Robertson. Founder of Nashville, “Father of Tennessee.” Robertson, leading a group of settlers from North Carolina to Tennessee, founded Fort Nashborough on Christmas Day of 1779. Named for Revolutionary War General Francis Nash, the name was changed in 1784 to Nashville. Robertson became well respected by the Indian tribes of Tennessee and worked to create many peace treaties with them. He is called by many historians “The Father of Tennessee.”
William Rufus Devane King. 13th United States Vice President, US Senator, US Congressman. He was the son of William King of Sampson County, North Carolina. who rendered important service to his country during the Revolutionary War, was a member of the convention which was called to adopt the federal constitution, and was often a delegate from his county to the general assembly. He was educated in private schools and entered the University of North Carolina at the age of 12, graduating in 1803. Afterwards he studied law in the office of William Duffy, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, and was admitted to the bar in 1805. His license has a unique codicil which allowed him to practice before the State Supreme Court, and the Federal court. Locating at Lincoln, in his native county, he opened an office and in 1806, at the age of 20, was elected a member of the state legislature; was re-elected but resigned after his election as solicitor of the Wilmington district. At the age of twenty-four, in 1810, he was chosen to the United States congress, he gained acceptance, in spite of the fact that he did not become qualified until congress met, continuing as a member and supporting the measures of the Madison administration until 1816 when he was offered the position of secretary of legation to the American embassy at St.Petersburg, Russia. In Russia he was often seen with the Princess, and he resigned his post rather than bringing embarrassment to someone he could not marry. He remained abroad for two years, traveling a great deal, and being closely associated with William Pinckney, the envoy-extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to Russia. When he returned from abroad the territory of Alabama was being organized and he soon determined to locate in this section of the country. He secured a residence and plantation near Cahaba, in Dallas County, and in 1819 was elected from this county as a delegate to the convention which framed the first constitution of the State. He was a member of the sub-committee which drafted that instrument. When the first general assembly met in 1819 he was almost unanimously chosen to one of the seats in congress to which the State was entitled, was twice re-elected, and served from December 14, 1819, until April 15, 1844. During the latter year, the relation of the United States with the foreign powers had become very sensitive in consequence of the proposed annexation of Texas and he was prevailed upon to accept the mission as Minister of France where he rendered extraordinary service to his country and where he remained until 1846 where he resigned and returned home. In the summer of 1848 he was appointed by Governor Chapman to the seat in the United States Senate left vacant by the resignation of Arthur P. Bagby. He was reelected, serving from July 1, 1848, to January 18, 1853, when he resigned and was elected president pro tempore of the senate, May 6, and July 11, 1850, resigning as president pro tempore, December 11, 1850. He was nominated for the vice presidency on the ticket with Franklin Pierce in 1852 and was elected to this office by a large majority. While serving in the Senate he contracted tuberculosis and in 1853 was forced to spend the winter in Cuba. By a privilege extended by special act of congress, he took the oath of office, in Havana, Cuba on March 4, 1853. As there was no improvement in his health he returned to Alabama, arriving in Cahaba the day before his death. He was un-married.
James Lawrence. War of 1812 United States Naval Officer. He commanded the frigate “USS Chesapeake” in its battle with the British Royal Navy frigate “HMS Shannon”. After a fierce fight the Shannon defeated Captain Lawrence’s command, and he was mortally wounded. His dying words “Don’t Give Up The Ship” became a rallying cry during the war, and has achieved legend status in American history.
Capt William Christopher “Bill” Driver, Sr. Mariner, Patriot. Born in Salem, Massachusetts, at age 13, he ran away from home to be a cabin boy on a sailing ship. At 21, he qualified as a master mariner and was licensed to sail a ship. As Captain of his own ship, his mother sewed an American flag which he nicknamed “Old Glory” and hoisted on the main mast. Among his sea adventures, he sailed to Australia and twice around the world. In 1831, departed Salem on a voyage to the South Pacific which included the escort of sixty-five descendants of the Bounty survivors from Tahiti back to their home on Pitcairn Island. He left the sea in 1837, moved to Nashville and became a salesman for various Nashville businesses. Every holiday, he displayed “Old Glory” outside his house. During the Civil War, Driver remained loyal to the Union and sewed “Old Glory” into a quilt for safekeeping. When the Union Army occupied Nashville, he gave the flag to the troops to be flown for a short time over the State Capitol.
Lena May Jones Springs. Political Figure. She was the first woman ever nominated for United States Vice President. Lena Jones Springs received the Democratic nomination for Vice President in 1924, four years after women received the right to vote. Attending the Democratic Convention held in New York, she was chosen as the Carolina Democrats first National Committeewoman, a position she held until 1928. Eighteen delegates from South Carolina nominated her for Vice President to pay tribute to her conscientious service to the state, as well as the national party. She won the hearts of the delegates at the convention, which had 182 female delegates and 292 female alternates in attendance for the first time in history. Among her many achievements, she was an organizer of the Lancaster Red Cross, President of the South Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs and was District Director of the South Carolina League of Women Voters. At the age of 59 years, Lena Jones Springs passed away in her apartment at the Plaza Hotel.
Henry Clay. US Congressman, US Senator. One of the Founders of the Whig political party, he was known as “The Great Compromiser” for his skillful forging of political compromises between the interests of free states and slave states, thus averting Civil War for several decades. Born the seventh son of nine children in Hanover County, Virginia, he had seen British troops under Colonel Banastre Tarleton ransack his family home. He grew up in the rural slaveholding area of Hanover County, Virginia, which despite the pro-slavery influence of his neighbors, only convinced him that slavery was ultimately doomed as an institution. When his father died in 1781, his mother married Captain Henry Watkins, who used his influence to get young Henry a job as a clerk in Peter Tinsley’s chancery office. There he earned his license to practice law in Virginia. At the age of 20, Clay moved to Kentucky, where he soon established a reputation as a highly successful trial lawyer. He married Lucretia Hart, and soon became an established landowner, livestock breeder and farmer, in addition to being a lawyer. In 1803, he was elected to the Kentucky General Assembly, and just three years later, he was appointed to fill a vacancy in the US Senate. Elected that same year to the Kentucky House of Representatives, he returned to the US Senate again in 1810, again filling in another unexpired vacancy. But it was in the US House of Representatives where he would ultimately make his most notable contributions to politics, where he was first elected in 1811, and upon his first day as a Congressman, was elected as Speaker of the House. Although a “War Hawk” when coming to a decision on going to war with Great Britain in 1812, he would serve as a commissioner to the joint British-American peace negotiations in Ghent, Belgium in 1814, ending the War of 1812. Favoring the end of slavery, he soon was involved in the expansion of free states vs. slave states in the growing west. Desiring to keep the Union together, he orchestrated the “Missouri Compromise of 1820” which provided for some slavery expansion, but more importantly, opened up the West in a more organized fashion, and avoided an early threat of succession by some pro-slavery states. The Compromise of 1820 brought Maine in as a free state and Missouri in as a slave state, thus maintaining an 11-11 balance in Congress, but more importantly, it forbade slavery north of 36 degrees, 30 minutes (the northern border of Arkansas). In 1824, he was appointed Secretary of State under President John Quincy Adams. He ran for President in 1824, 1832, 1840, 1844, and 1848, being defeated each time. Although these attempts were unsuccessful, he defined the issues of the two party system for over thirty years. In 1849, he returned to the US Senate, where the next year, he authored the Compromise of 1850, perhaps his most important piece of legislation. The issue was the newly annexed lands taken from Mexico during the Mexican War of 1846-48. Clay’s plan allowed slavery in New Mexico and Utah territories, while admitting California in as a free state. It also included a revised Fugitive Slave Act and banned the slave trade in the District of Columbia. This compromise helped to delay the Civil War for another 11 years. Feeling increasingly ill, he resigned from the Senate in 1851, and died the following year in Washington, DC. He once summed up his life: “If any one desires to know the leading and paramount object of my public life, the preservation of the Union will furnish him the key.” His headstone reads: “I know no North, no South, no East, no West.”
Francis Preston Blair, Sr. Journalist, American Political Figure. Although he never officially held any office, he rose to prominence as a member of President Andrew Jackson’s “Kitchen Cabinet”. After he publicly supported President Jackson’s opposition to the nullification movement, he was invited to leave his native Kentucky and establish a Democratic newspaper in Washington, DC. That paper, the “Washington Globe”, became recognized as the mouthpiece for the Democratic Party. He served in that capacity until 1845, when President James K. Polk removed him for agitating against any War with Mexico despite the protest of Jackson and other prominent Democrats. He continued to support the Democratic Party, backing former President Martin Van Buren’s 1848 re-election attempt, and being instrumental in the election of President Franklin Pierce in 1852. When the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was repealed in 1854, he left the Democratic Party in favor of the fledgling Republican Party. His prominence in the new political party was such that he chaired both the 1856 and 1860 Republican Conventions, and exerted great influence in the nomination of Abraham Lincoln as the Party’s presidential candidate. After the Civil War started with the bombardment of Fort Sumter, South Carolina in April 1861, he was detailed by President Lincoln to feel out Colonel Robert E. Lee’s position on the conflict, and to see how favorably he would be to an offer to lead the Union forces against the Confederacy (he was not officially offered the command, contrary to popular myth). In 1864 Francis P. Blair Sr. took it upon himself to pass through Confederate lines to meet with Confederate President Jefferson Davis in a desire to see if peace could be obtained. His unauthorized meetings led to the unsuccessful “Peace Conference” of February 1865. After the war’s end and the assassination of President Lincoln, he supported Lincoln’s moderate policies of reconstruction, and opposed the harsh measures that were actually implemented. This alienated him from the leaders of the Republican Party, and he aligned himself with the Democrats again until his death in 1876. Two of his sons rose to prominence during the Civil War. Elder son Montgomery Blair served as President Lincoln’s Postmaster General from 1861 to 1864, and younger son Francis P. Blair Jr. rose to a Major General of Volunteers in the Union Army.
Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg. Continental Congressman, US Congressman. An ordained Lutheran minister, he was a staunch supporter of the American Revolution, and was elected as a Delegate from Pennsylvania to the Continental Congress, serving from 1779 to 1780. He then served in the Pennsylvania State Legislature, and was head of that state’s convention that ratified the United States Constitution in 1787. He was elected to represent Pennsylvania as an At-Large Delegate to the United States House of Representatives in 1789, and was one of the first Congressmen from the state. Upon the convening of the 1st Congress, he was elected by the body as Speaker of the House, the very first in United States history. He served in Congress from 1789 to 1797, representing Pennsylvania’s 3rd and 4th Districts in the interim. He also served two Speaker terms, first from 1789 to 1791, and next from 1793 to 1795 (Jonathan Trumbull Jr. of Connecticut served in-between Frederick Muhlenberg’s two terms). He declined to run for reelection in 1797, and died in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1801. He was the brother of Continental Army General John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, the uncle of Congressmen Henry Augustus Phillip Muhlenberg and Francis Swaine Muhlenberg, and the great-great-grandfather of namesake Congressman Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg.
Stephen Fuller Austin. Father of Texas. When he was seven years old the family moved from his father’s lead mines in Virginia to southeastern Missouri. He was educated in Connecticut and at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. After returning to Missouri he gradually assumed management of his father’s lead business while holding military and public positions in Missouri and Arkansas. He subsequently studied law in New Orleans. He reached San Antonio, Texas late in 1821 after his father’s death. His father had been given 200,000 acres and Stephen was among the first to colonize the Spanish grant. He expanded and wholly managed the colony, becoming the most successful of all the ‘empresarios’ as those who contracted to settle colonies were called. He was responsible for building a sound legal base for his settlement, as well as the continued introduction of slaves. At first he was loyal to Mexico and desirous of his colony remaining apart from political turmoil that was wracking the country believing Texas could become an independent state within the Mexican commonwealth. He sought to thwart the ambition of his people to annex to the United States. Against his better judgment he went to Mexico City with a petition requesting the creation of an independent state government for Texas. He was placed in jail and upon his release he returned to Texas in time to participate in the revolution. He served initially as commander of the region’s volunteer army. He then journeyed to the United States to garner support for their efforts. He returned to Texas in June of 1836, after the fighting had all but ceased. He was defeated by Sam Houston for election as the president of the new republic. Houston appointed him to be Secretary of State, but he would only serve for two months before he died. The original capital of Texas was known as Columbia, now West Columbia, and it was there that Austin caught a severe cold and died from pneumonia. Upon hearing of Austin’s death, Houston ordered an official statement proclaiming: “The Father of Texas is no more; the first pioneer of the wilderness has departed.” His body was taken by wagon from Columbia and was put on a boat on the Brazos River and taken to the Gulf Prairie Cemetery in Jones Creek, Texas. In 1910 his remains were removed and taken to the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.
Nellie Tayloe Ross. First female governor of Wyoming (and first in the country, as a whole). She served from January 5, 1925 to January 3, 1927. She was Director of the U.S. Mint (appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt) for 20 years, from 1933 to 1953. Wife of Willam B. Ross, governor of Wyoming.
Edward Everett Eslick. US Congressman. A Democrat, he represented Tennessee’s 7th District in the Sixty-ninth and three succeeding Congresses, serving from 1925 until his death in office. Eslick attended Bethel College in Russellville, Kentucky, was admitted to the bar in 1893, and set up law practice in his hometown of Pulaski, Tennessee. He was also a banker, farmer, and Government appeal agent for Giles County prior to his election to Congress. On June 14, 1932, Eslick participated in a House debate on the Patman Bonus Bill, which would have authorized immediate payment of cash benefits to World War I veterans. Although he was not known for robust health or oratory skills, he took the floor and voiced his support for the bill with an impassioned speech, often shouting down interruptions from his colleagues. At the words “We hear nothing but dollars here. I want to go from the sordid side…” he collapsed and died from a heart attack. He was the first Representative to die while addressing Congress since Thomas Tyler Bouldin in 1834. (The House passed the Bonus Bill but it was defeated in the Senate). His widow Willa Eslick was elected to complete his term, which made her Tenessee’s first Congresswoman. Eslick’s dramatic demise is noted on his tombstone along with the legend, “He who falls in a just cause – never dies”.
Willa Eslick. U.S. Congresswoman. She attended Dick White College, Milton College, Winthrop Model School, Peabody College and Metropolitan College of Music and the Synthetic School of Music, New York. Entering politics, she was a member of the Tennessee State Democratic committee. In 1932, she elected first woman to represent Tennessee as a Democrat to the Seventy-second Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of her husband United States Representative Edward E. Eslick, serving until 1933. She was not eligible for reelection, for not having qualified for nomination as required by the Tennessee State law.
John Catron. United States Supreme Court Associate Justice. Born in Wythe County, Pennsylvania, he relocated to Kentucky in the first years of the 19th Century and served with Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812. After the war, he studied law, was admitted to the Bar in 1815 and commenced to practice law in Nashville, Tennessee. He gave up his law practice for a two-year term as Attorney General for the third circuit, was elected judge of the Tennessee Supreme Court of Errors and Appeals in 1824 and he became the first Tennessee Supreme Court chief justice in 1831. Just before leaving office, President Jackson appointed Catron to the U.S. Supreme Court, on May 1, 1837. He served for the next twenty-eight years, took part in a number of cases of constitutional significance, such as slave desputes and with the outbreak of the Civil War, tried to convince Tennessee State leaders to remain in the Union. He died while in office at age 79 in Nashville, Tennessee.
John Bell. U.S. Congressman, Presidential Cabinet Member, U.S. Senator. After graduating from Cumberland College, in 1814, he studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1816 and commenced to practice law in Franklin, Tennessee. He was a member of the Tennessee State Senate 1817. He was elected as Democrat-Republican to the Twentieth Congress and to the next six succeeding Congresses, serving (1827-41). After his last term, he was appointed by President William Henry Harrison as the 16th Secretary of War, serving March 5, 1841 until he resigned on September 12, 1841. He was a member of the Tennessee State House of Representatives, when elected as a Whig to the United States Senate, serving (1847-59). Retiring from politics, he managed his family owned ironworks, until his death at age 73 in Dover, Tennessee.
Hubert Horatio Humphrey. 38th United States Vice President, US Senator. After graduating magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota in 1939 and receiving a masters degree from Louisiana State University in 1940, Hubert Humphrey embarked on a career in Minnesota politics. Narrowly losing the 1943 race for mayor of Minneapolis, Humphrey turned to party activism and was instrumental in the merger of the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party in 1944. Leading this coalition, he was elected mayor of Minneapolis in 1945 and reelected in 1947. In 1948, he was elected United States Senator; he would win reelection in 1954 and 1960. His first legislative proposal was for senior citizen health care, a vision that would eventually become Medicare. During his career he would also introduce legislation to create the Peace Corps and would be instrumental in passing the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Losing a 1960 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Humphrey was later selected as President Lyndon Johnson’s Vice-Presidential running mate and won that office in 1964. Though initially opposed to United States involvement in Vietnam, he would come to support Johnson’s Vietnam policy and undertook several foreign trips to elucidate this position internationally. It is widely believed that this change of position contributed to Humphrey’s narrow loss to Richard Nixon in the 1968 Presidential election. He returned to the Senate in 1970 and unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972. He was reelected to the Senate in 1976, but passed away during his term in office. The remaining years of his term were served by his wife, Muriel.