Graham, William A. (William Alexander), 1804-1875

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Governor of and U.S. senator from North Carolina.

From the description of Letter of William A. Graham, 1852. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 79450527

William Alexander Graham (September 5, 1804 - August 11, 1875) was a United States Senator from North Carolina from 1840 to 1843, the 30th Governor of North Carolina from 1845 to 1849 and United States Secretary of the Navy from 1850 to 1852. He was also a candidate for the vice-presidency in 1852.

From the description of Letter, February 26, 1852. (Naval War College). WorldCat record id: 18168854

William Alexander Graham of Hillsborough, N.C., was a lawyer, legislator, United States senator, Secretary of the Navy, Whig vice-presidential candidate in 1852, Confederate senator, trustee of the Peabody Fund, and member of the board of arbitration for the Maryland and Virginia boundary dispute.

From the description of William A. Graham papers, 1750-1940. (Oceanside Free Library). WorldCat record id: 23150419

William Alexander Graham, an 1815 alumnus and Virginia physician, was the son of Edward Graham, a Washington and Lee University professor and Margaret Alexander (sister of Archibald Alexander); and the nephew of William Graham, first rector of Liberty Hall Academy in Lexington, Virginia.

From the description of Narrative, [18--]. (Washington & Lee University). WorldCat record id: 53308354

William Alexander Graham, born 5 September 1804 on Vesuvius Plantation, the family home in eastern Lincoln County, was the eleventh child and youngest son of Joseph and Isabella Davidson Graham. An iron entrepreneur and public servant, Joseph Graham (1759-1836) achieved local fame as a young but dedicated Revolutionary officer. Isabella Davidson Graham (1762-1808) was the accomplished daughter of John Davidson of Mecklenburg County. Also a Revolutionary patriot, John Davidson was a substantial farmer and blacksmith, who with his sons-in-law Alexander Brevard and Joseph Graham, pioneered the Catawba River valley iron industry.

William A. Graham enjoyed a rural childhood and was educated in classical schools in nearby Lincolnton and Statesville before completing his preparatory education in the Hillsborough Academy. Graham began attending the University of North Carolina in January 1821 and was an active member of the Dialectic Society. Graham shared first honors when he graduated with the class of 1824.

After graduation, Graham studied law with Thomas Ruffin of Orange County, who later became chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. By March 1828, Graham had established himself in the legal community of Hillsborough, N.C. Graham went on to become a successful lawyer and owner of three plantations.

On 8 June 1836, Graham married Susannah Sarah Washington (1816-1890), daughter of John and Elizabeth Heritage Cobb Washington of New Bern. During their long marriage, the Grahams had ten children, eight of whom survived both parents. Their children were Joseph (1837-1907), John Washington (1838-1928), William Alexander (1839-1924), James Augustus (1841-1909), Robert Davidson (1843-1904), George Washington (1847-1923), Augustus Washington (1849-1936), Susan Washington (1851-1909), Alfred Octavius (1853-1854), and Eugene Berrien (1858-1863). Four sons were attorneys, two were physicians, and one, William Alexander Jr., was a planter and North Carolina commissioner of agriculture. Susan Washington Graham married Judge Walter Clark.

In the early 1830s, Graham joined with other opponents of Andrew Jackson to form the Whig party. Graham represented Orange County as a member of the House of Commons in 1836, 1838, and 1840. From December 1840 to March 1843, he represented North Carolina in the United States Senate. In 1844, Graham ran successfully for governor, defeating Michael Hoke, a formidable Democrat. Graham was reelected for a second term and was governor from January 1845 to January 1849. Much of his time in office was absorbed by the Mexican War, of which he disapproved although he raised and officered a North Carolina regiment, and on railroad development.

Graham continued to keep his hand in politics, serving briefly as Secretary of the Navy (1850-1853), but he devoted most of his time to his family. In the days leading up to the Civil War, Graham argued against secession. Only after the firing on Fort Sumter did he accept the inevitable. Along with Thomas Ruffin, Graham helped to negotiate the terms by which North Carolina entered the Confederate States of America. Five of his sons were Confederate officers. In 1864, Graham became a Confederate senator and an open opponent of the Davis government. As the war came to a close, Graham, along with David L. Swain, was authorized by Zebulon Vance to surrender Raleigh to William T. Sherman.

Because of his support to the Confederacy, Graham was forced to apply for pardon, which was delayed by W. W. Holden. Nevertheless, Graham was elected to the state senate in November 1865, but he declined to be seated before his pardon was granted. In early December he was elected to the United States Senate, but his seat was denied along with others elected under the Johnson Reconstruction plan. In 1867, he was appointed to the original board of Peabody Fund Trustees and served in that capacity until his death. Graham became an outspoken advocate of the conservative position and white supremacy. An advocate of the redemption movement in North Carolina and for further constitutional reforms, Graham was elected a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1875, but he died before it assembled.

Graham died unexpectedly on 11 August 1875 at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where he had gone to attend a meeting of the Virginia-Maryland Arbitration Commission. He was buried in the cemetery adjacent to the Hillsborough Presbyterian Church.

From the guide to the William A. Graham Papers, 1750-1940, (Southern Historical Collection)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn National Archives And Records Administration. Rg 27: Weather Bureau.
referencedIn Thomas Ruffin Papers, 1753-1898 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection
referencedIn Engstrom, Mary Claire, 1906-1997. Mary Claire Engstrom photographic collection, 1930s-1979 (bulk 1950s-1976). University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn Graham, Joseph, 1759-1836. Joseph Graham papers, 1769-1864. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn Ruffin, Roulhac, and Hamilton Family, 1784-1951 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection
referencedIn Iredell, James, 1751-1799. Papers, 1831-1842. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Gore Vidal papers, 1875-2004 (inclusive), 1936-2000 (bulk). Houghton Library.
creatorOf Graham, William A. (William Alexander), 1804-1875. Governor Graham on the Mecklenburg Declaration. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn North Carolina State Archives. [Contact repository for more information].
referencedIn Smithsonian Archives. James Henry Coffin Papers.
creatorOf Stuart, Alexander H. H. (Alexander Hugh Holmes), 1807-1891. Papers of Alexander H. H. Stuart and the related Stuart and Baldwin families [manuscript], 1776-1878 (bulk 1850-1861). University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Graham, William A. (William Alexander), 1804-1875. Narrative, [18--]. Washington & Lee University, James G. Leyburn Library
referencedIn Willie Person Mangum Papers, 1771-1906, (bulk 1771-1868) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Graham, William A. (William Alexander), 1804-1875. Papers, 1841-1896. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Johnson, Herschel V. (Herschel Vespasian), 1812-1880. Papers, 1812-1880. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Bladen Dulany Papers, 1817-1855, (bulk 1851-1854) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Edwin D. Morgan Letters, 1839-1880 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
referencedIn Papers Of William Alexander Graham (J. G. De R. Hamilton, E. [Contact repository for more information].
referencedIn Dulany, Bladen, 1792-1856. Papers of Bladen Dulany, 1817-1855. Library of Congress
creatorOf Fillmore, Millard, 1800-1874. Papers, 1809-1944 (bulk 1809-1874). Buffalo History Museum, Research Library
referencedIn White, Sarah Caldwell. Sarah Caldwell White papers, 1770-1918 (bulk 1870-1918) [manuscript]. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn Frederick M. Dearborn collection of military and political Americana, Part I: The Revolution and the Administration, 1669-1958. Houghton Library.
creatorOf Graham, William A. (William Alexander), 1804-1875. Letter, February 26, 1852. Naval War College, Henry E. Eccles Library
referencedIn National Archives And Records Administration. Naval Observatory Records.
referencedIn Salter, William D., 1795-1869. William D. Salter papers, 1810-1869 (bulk 1830-1860) Library of Congress
referencedIn Jones, Jo. Seawell (Joseph Seawell), 1811?-1855. Jo. Seawell Jones papers, 1832-1836 [manuscript]. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf Webster, Daniel, 1782-1852. Letter, 1851 Jan. 29, to Wm. A. Graham. Dartmouth College Library
referencedIn Mangum, Willie Person, 1792-1861. Papers of Willie Person Mangum, 1771-1906. Library of Congress
referencedIn Edward Settle Godfrey Papers, 1863-1933, (bulk 1880-1925) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Graham, James Augustus, 1841-1908. James Augustus Graham papers, 1861-1901 (bulk 1861-1865) [manuscript]. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf Graham, William A. (William Alexander), 1804-1875. William A. Graham papers, 1750-1940. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn Andrew H. Foote Papers, 1822-1890, (bulk 1847-1857) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf William A. Graham Papers, 1750-1940 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection
referencedIn Godfrey, Edward Settle, 1843-1932. Papers of Edward Settle Godfrey, 1863-1933 (bulk 1880-1925). Library of Congress
referencedIn De Haven, Edwin Jesse, 1816-1865. Papers of Edwin Jesse De Haven, 1843-1854. Library of Congress
referencedIn Wheeler, John H. (John Hill), 1806-1882. Papers, 1842-1852. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Dorothea Lynde Dix papers, 1798-1893 (inclusive), 1827-1887 (bulk). Houghton Library.
creatorOf King, John Alsop, 1788-1867. Autograph letter signed : Washington, to William A. Graham, 1851 Feb. 1. Pierpont Morgan Library.
referencedIn Hill, D. H. (Daniel Harvey), 1821-1889. D. H. Hill papers, 1848-1951. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn Stevens, Thomas Holdup, 1819-1896. Papers, 1823-1895. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Alexander H. Graham Papers (#4998), 1879-1939 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection
referencedIn Bryan family. Bryan family papers, 1704-1940. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn William D. Salter Papers, 1810-1869, (bulk 1830-1860) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Tuck, Amos, 1810-1879. Letter, 1850 October 31, Exeter, N.H. to William L. Graham. New England Historic Genealogical Society
referencedIn Barringer, Daniel Moreau, 1806-1873. Daniel Moreau Barringer papers, 1797-1873. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn Smithsonian Archives. Ru 7001 (Henry) Or Ru 7053 (Bache) Per Author.
creatorOf Wiley, C. H. (Calvin Henderson), 1819-1887. Papers, 1868-1886 [microform]. Rutherford B Hayes Presidential Center, Hayes Presidential Center
creatorOf United States. Dept. of the Interior. Letter, 1850 Oct. 18, Washington, D.C., to A.S. Baker, Buffalo, N.Y. Dartmouth College Library
referencedIn McRae, Duncan G. (Duncan Grainger), 1808-1889. Duncan G. McRae papers, 1798-1898 (bulk 1819-1876). University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
referencedIn Crittenden, John J. (John Jordan), 1787-1863. John J. Crittenden papers, 1836-1861. University of Kentucky Libraries
referencedIn University Of North Carolina, Univ. Libraries, Ms. Dept.. Southern Historical Coll.: W. A. Graham Papers.
referencedIn New York State Library. Manuscripts and Special Collections Unit. Autographs of American authors and statesmen collection, ca.1770-1865. American Periodical Series I
creatorOf Graham, William A. (William Alexander), 1804-1875. Letter of William A. Graham, 1852. Library of Congress
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Agassiz, Louis person
associatedWith Badger, George Edmund, 1795-1866. person
associatedWith Barringer, Daniel Moreau, 1806-1873. person
associatedWith Bragg, Thomas, 1810-1872. person
associatedWith Brevard, Theodore Washington, d. 1877. person
associatedWith Bryan family. family
associatedWith Buchanan, James, 1791-1868. person
associatedWith Cameron, Duncan, 1777-1853. person
associatedWith Cameron, Paul C. (Paul Carrington), 1808-1891. person
associatedWith Clay, Henry, 1777-1852. person
associatedWith Confederate States of America. Army corporateBody
associatedWith Cooper, James Fenimore, 1789-1851. person
associatedWith Crittenden, John J. (John Jordan), 1787-1863. person
associatedWith Dearborn, Frederick M. (Frederick Myers), b. 1876 person
correspondedWith Deems, C. F. person
correspondedWith Deems, Charles F. person
associatedWith De Haven, Edwin Jesse, 1816-1865. person
associatedWith Dix, Dorothea Lynde, 1802-1887. person
associatedWith Douglas, Stephen A. (Stephen Arnold), 1813-1861. person
associatedWith Dulany, Bladen, 1792-1856. person
associatedWith Engstrom, Mary Claire, 1906-1997. person
correspondedWith Espy, James P. person
associatedWith Fillmore, Millard, 1800-1874. person
correspondedWith Foote, Andrew H. (Andrew Hull), 1806-1863 person
associatedWith Gaston, William, 1778-1844. person
correspondedWith Godfrey, Edward Settle, 1843-1932. person
associatedWith Graham, Alexander H., 1890-1977 person
associatedWith Graham, Edward, 1765-1840. person
associatedWith Graham family. family
associatedWith Graham, James, 1793-1851. person
associatedWith Graham, James Augustus, 1841-1908. person
associatedWith Graham, Joseph, 1759-1836. person
associatedWith Greensboro College corporateBody
associatedWith Hamilton, Alexander, 1712-1756. person
associatedWith Hamilton family. family
associatedWith Hedrick, Benjamin Sherwood, 1827-1886. person
correspondedWith Henry, Joseph, 1797-1878 person
associatedWith Hill, D. H. (Daniel Harvey), 1821-1889. person
associatedWith Holden, W. W. (William Woods), 1818-1892. person
correspondedWith Hopkins, W. F. person
associatedWith Houston, Sam, 1793-1863. person
associatedWith Iredell, James, 1751-1799. person
associatedWith Johnson, Herschel V. (Herschel Vespasian), 1812-1880. person
associatedWith Jones, Jo. Seawell (Joseph Seawell), 1811?-1855. person
associatedWith King, John Alsop, 1788-1867. person
correspondedWith Littlejohn, J. N. person
associatedWith Mangum, William Preston, 1837-1861. person
associatedWith Mangum, Willie Person, 1792-1861. person
associatedWith Manly, Charles, 1795-1871. person
associatedWith Manly, Matthias Evans, 1801-1881. person
correspondedWith Marr, Robert A. person
correspondedWith Maury, Matthew F. person
associatedWith McRae, Duncan G. (Duncan Grainger), 1808-1889. person
associatedWith Mitchell, Elisha, 1793-1857. person
associatedWith Moore, B. F. (Bartholomew Figures), 1801-1878. person
associatedWith Morehead, James Turner, 1840-1908. person
associatedWith Morgan, Edwin D. (Edwin Dennison), 1811-1883 person
correspondedWith Newton, John Thomas person
associatedWith New York State Library. Manuscripts and Special Collections Unit. corporateBody
correspondedWith Nicholson, W. person
correspondedWith Nicholson, W. L. person
associatedWith Petigru, James Louis, 1789-1863. person
associatedWith Pettigrew, James Johnston, 1828-1863. person
associatedWith Polk, Leonidas, 1806-1864. person
associatedWith Roulhac family. family
associatedWith Ruffin family. family
associatedWith Ruffin, Thomas, 1787-1870. person
correspondedWith Salter, William D., 1795-1869. person
associatedWith Seddon, James A. (James Alexander), 1815-1880. person
correspondedWith Shields, W. F. person
associatedWith Spencer, Cornelia Phillips, 1825-1908. person
correspondedWith Stafford, James R. person
associatedWith Stevens, Thomas Holdup, 1819-1896. person
associatedWith Stuart, Alexander H. H. (Alexander Hugh Holmes), 1807-1891. person
associatedWith Sutterland, Josiah. person
correspondedWith Swain, David L. person
associatedWith Swain, David L. (David Lowry), 1801-1868. person
associatedWith Tryon, William, 1729-1788. person
correspondedWith Tuck, Amos, 1810-1879. person
associatedWith United States. Congress. Senate corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Dept. of the Interior. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Navy Dept. corporateBody
associatedWith University of North Carolina (1793-1962) corporateBody
associatedWith University of Pennsylvania. School of Medicine corporateBody
associatedWith Van Buren, Martin, 1782-1862. person
associatedWith Vance, Zebulon Baird, 1830-1894. person
associatedWith Vidal, Gore, 1925- person
associatedWith Waddell, Hugh, 1734?-1773. person
associatedWith Wake Forest College corporateBody
associatedWith Webster, Daniel, 1782-1852. person
associatedWith Wheeler, John H. (John Hill), 1806-1882. person
correspondedWith Wheeler, S. J. person
associatedWith Whig Party (N.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith Whig Party (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith White, Sarah Caldwell. person
associatedWith Wiley, C. H. (Calvin Henderson), 1819-1887. person
correspondedWith Woodruff, Lewis person
associatedWith Worth, Jonathan, 1802-1869. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Confederate States of America
South Carolina
Virginia--Abingdon
Virginia--Lexington
Oxford (N.C.)
North Carolina
North Carolina
Lexington (Va.)
Hillsborough (N.C.)
Subject
Meteorology
Soldiers--Correspondence
Inventors
Legislators
Slavery
Politicians
Plantations
Iron industry and trade--History--19th century
Lectures, Popular
Education
Lawyers--History--19th century
Geology
Mathematics
Agriculture
Natural history
Medicine History 19th century
Smithsonian Publications
Medical education--19th century--Diaries
Smithsonian Institution
Occupation
Governors--North Carolina
Senators, U.S. Congress--North Carolina
Function

Person

Birth 1804-09-05

Death 1875-08-11

Information

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SNAC ID: 18922977