William A. Graham, Prominent Whig Politician

William A. GrahamOn August 11, 1875, prominent politician William A. Graham died. He was born in September 1804 in Lincoln County. Graham’s father was a Revolutionary War soldier and a pioneer in the region’s iron industry.

Attracted to the political arena, Graham aligned himself with the emerging Whig Party. He served in the state legislature from 1833 to 1840 and worked to establish public schools during his tenure as speaker of that body.

He served for three years in the U.S. Senate before being elected governor in 1844. As governor, Graham pushed the Whig agenda of internal improvements and education. He served briefly as Secretary of the Navy during the early 1850s, ran for vice president in 1852 and returned to Orange County after his unsuccessful bid.

Though he served as a state and Confederate senator during the Civil War, Graham was a vocal opponent of secession. His views frequently conflicted with those of the Confederate government, though he sent five sons to fight for the South.

The General Assembly elected Graham to the U. S. Senate in December 1865, but Radical Republicans gained control of Congress and refused to seat the Southern delegates. He died in New York while trying to arbitrate a border dispute between Maryland and Virginia.

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