Jurist, US Senator, and US Supreme Court Associate Justice. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as a US Senator from Tennessee from March 1881 until April 1886 and as an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court from February 1893 until his death. Born in Paris, Tennessee, his father was a physician. At age eight his family moved to Jackson, Tennessee where his father was elected to the state legislator and later as mayor of Jackson. He attended West Tennessee College (now Union University) in Jackson, and following his graduation in 1849 he studied at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia for two years. Around 1851 he returned to Tennessee and worked as a law clerk for a year, then attended the Cumberland School of Law at Lebanon, Tennessee and graduated in 1856. After he was admitted to the bar, he moved to Memphis, Tennessee and set up a law practice. When the American Civil War broke out in April 1861, he worked for the Confederacy in a civil position, although he was opposed to secession. In 1862, after Union forces occupied Tennessee, he relocated to LaGrange, Georgia where he remained until the end of the war. He then returned to his law practice in Memphis and in 1874 he moved back to Jackson, where he served on the Court of Arbitration for West Tennessee. In 1880 he was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives and the following year he was chosen by the Tennessee General Assembly to represent Tennessee in the US Senate. In April 1886 he resigned his seat to accept US President Grover Cleveland's nomination to the US 6th Circuit Court and served in this position until February 1893 when he accepted US President Benjamin Harrison's nomination as Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, filling the vacancy left by the death of Lucius Q.C. Lamar. During his short tenure, his expertise in patent law helped to break the logjam of patent cases that had been brought before the Court. Ill with tuberculosis, he died in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 63 and was succeeded to the US Supreme Court by Rufus Wheeler Peck.
Bio by: William Bjornstad
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