US Congressman, US Senator. Born in Butler County, Ohio, as a youth he was moved to Montgomery County, Indiana. In 1840 he graduated from Asbury University (now De Pauw University), in Greencastle, Indiana, then read law until he was admitted to the Indiana State Bar in 1843. He removed to Crawfordsville, Indiana in 1847, establishing a law practice there. In 1848 he was elected as a Democrat to represent Indiana's 8th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives, defeating former Congressman Henry Smith Lane in the race (Henry S. Lane would go on to be elected Governor of Indiana and to the United States Senate. Joseph E. McDonald served as single term from 1849 to 1851, and declined to run for a second term. In 1856 he was elected as Attorney General of Indiana, and served two terms in that office until 1859. He then moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, establishing a practice there. A staunch Union man, in 1864 he ran as the Democratic candidate for Indiana governor against incumbent Oliver P. Morton, who was an political opponent but personal friend. The campaign was marked by bitterness on both sides, but Governor Morton eventually prevailed, defeating Joseph E McDonald by over 20,000 votes. He returned to private practice, but in 1874 made himself a candidate for the United States Senate, which he was duly elected. He served a single term as a Democratic Senator from Indiana from 1874 to 1881, and was unsuccessful in his attempt to be elected for a second term. He returned to Indianapolis, where he passed away in 1891.
Bio by: RPD2