Signer of the Declaration of Independence from Maryland. Born into a wealthy family on Halloween, 1740, in Abingdon, near Baltimore. At the age of 12, he entered the University of Pennsylvania, and following graduation, studied law in Annapolis and England. Upon his return to Maryland, he settled in Annapolis and married Mary Chew. He soon became one of Maryland's leading attorneys. An ardent patriot, he preferred to work behind the scenes, writing newspaper articles, and leaving the speeches and rabble rousing to others. With his friend and fellow attorney, Samuel Chase, they made a terrific team, with Paca writing many of the speeches that Chase would make. In 1767, Paca was elected to represent Annapolis in the Maryland Legislature. He served in the First and Second Continental Congress, from 1774 to 1779, and would sign the Declaration as a delegate from Maryland. Paca meant it when he pledged his life, his fortune and his sacred honor. He would spend thousands of dollars of his own money to supply the American Army during the war. He served as Governor of Maryland from 1782 to 1785. When the US Constitution was created in 1787, the Bill of Rights (the first ten Amendments to the Constitution) was created to protect certain basic rights. Paca wrote provisions for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and legal protection for citizens accused of crimes, all of which ended up in the Bill of Rights. William Paca suffered much in his personal life. His first wife, Mary Chew, died at age 38, and only one of their three children lived to adulthood. Paca remarried, to Anne Harrison, who died at age 23, and their only child died at age 2. Paca would have two other children; to women he did not marry. One of them was his daughter, Hester, whose mother was a free black woman, creating somewhat of a scandal at the time. Paca would raise Hester and send her to the finest boarding school in Philadelphia. President George Washington appointed him judge of the Court for Maryland in 1789, a post he held until his death in 1799. In his later life, he became one of America's wealthiest men. He built Wye Hall, at his estate on Wye Island, Maryland, where he died about three weeks before his 59th birthday.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson