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William R. King: Wikis


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William R. King

Daguerreotype of Vice-President King taken by Mathew Brady.

In office
March 4, 1853 – April 18, 1853
President Franklin Pierce
Preceded by Millard Fillmore
Succeeded by John C. Breckinridge

In office
May 6, 1850 – December 20, 1852
Preceded by David Rice Atchison
Succeeded by David Rice Atchison
In office
July 1, 1836 – March 4, 1841
Preceded by John Tyler
Succeeded by Samuel L. Southard

In office
December 14, 1819 - April 15, 1844
Preceded by None
Succeeded by Dixon Hall Lewis
In office
July 1, 1848 - December 20, 1852
Preceded by Arthur P. Bagby
Succeeded by Benjamin Fitzpatrick

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from North Carolina's 5th district
In office
March 4, 1811 - November 4, 1816
Preceded by Thomas Kenan
Succeeded by Charles Hooks

Born April 7, 1786(1786-04-07)
Sampson County, North Carolina
Died April 18, 1853 (aged 67)
Selma, Dallas County, Alabama
Political party Democratic
Alma mater University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

William Rufus DeVane King (April 7, 1786 – April 18, 1853) was the 13th Vice President of the United States, and earlier a U.S. Representative from North Carolina, Minister to France, and a Senator from Alabama. King died of tuberculosis after 45 days in office. With the exceptions of John Tyler and Andrew Johnson—both of whom succeeded to the Presidency—he remains the shortest-serving Vice President.


Early life

King was born in Sampson County, North Carolina, to William King and Margaret deVane, and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1803. There, King Residence Quad is named in his honor, and is the site of Mangum House Residence as well as Manly, Ruffin and Grimes Houses. He was admitted to the bar in 1806 and began practice in Clinton, North Carolina. King was a member of the North Carolina House of Commons from 1807 to 1809 and city solicitor of Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1810. He was elected to the Twelfth, Thirteenth and Fourteenth Congresses, serving from March 4, 1811, until November 4, 1816, when he resigned. King was Secretary of the Legation at Naples, Italy, and later at St. Petersburg, Russia. He returned to the United States in 1818 and located in Cahawba, Alabama, where he became a slaveholder on a large Black Belt cotton plantation. King and his relatives were some of the largest slaveholding families in Alabama, reportedly owning collectively as many as five hundred slaves.


King was a delegate to the convention which organized the Alabama state government. Upon the admission of Alabama as a State in 1819 he was elected as a Democratic-Republican to the United States Senate, and was reelected as a Jacksonian in 1822, 1828, 1834, and 1841, serving from December 14, 1819, until April 15, 1844, when he resigned. He served as President pro tempore of the United States Senate during the 24th through 27th Congresses. King was Chairman of the Committee on Public Lands and the Committee on Commerce.

He was Minister to France from 1844 to 1846. He was appointed and subsequently elected as a Democrat to the Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Arthur P. Bagby and began serving on July 1, 1848. During the conflicts leading up to the Compromise of 1850, King supported the Senate's gag rule against debate on antislavery petitions, and opposed the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.[1] King supported a conservative proslavery position, arguing that the Constitution protected the institution of slavery in both the Southern states and the federal territories, placing King in opposition to both the abolitionists' efforts to abolish slavery in the territories and the Fire-Eaters' calls for Southern secession.[1]

On July 11, 1850, just two days after the death of President Zachary Taylor, King was again appointed President pro tempore of the Senate, which made him first in the line of succession to the U.S. Presidency, because of the Vice Presidential vacancy. King served until resigning on December 20, 1852, due to poor health. He served as President pro tempore of the Senate during the Thirty-first and Thirty-second Congresses and was Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations and Committee on Pensions.


Vice Presidency and death

Sketch of William Rufus DeVane King

King was elected Vice President of the United States on the Democratic ticket with Franklin Pierce in 1852 and took the oath of office March 24, 1853, in Cuba, where he had gone because of his health. This unusual inauguration took place because it was believed that King, who was terminally ill with tuberculosis, would not live much longer. The privilege of taking the oath on foreign soil was extended by a special act of Congress for his long and distinguished service to the government of the United States. Even though he took the oath 20 days after inauguration day he was still Vice President during those three weeks.

Shortly afterward, King returned to his plantation, King's Bend, across the river from Cahaba, Alabama, and died within two days. He was interred in a vault on the plantation. City officials of Selma and some of King's family wanted to move his body within Selma, where they believed the town's co-founder should be interred. Other family members wanted his body to remain at the family plot. In 1882, the Selma City Council appointed a committee to select a new plot for King's body. There are different versions of how his body was taken from King's Bend, however after 29 years he was reinterred in Live Oak Cemetery, Selma. He is entombed in a granite mausoleum.

Following King's death the office of Vice-President remained vacant until 1857 when John C. Breckinridge was inaugurated. In accordance with the Presidential Succession Act of 1792, the President pro tempore of the Senate was next in order of succession to President Pierce from 1853 to 1857.

James Buchanan, fifteenth President of the United States. A companion of William R. King with whom he shared his home.

Personal relationship with James Buchanan

King was close friends with James Buchanan, and the two shared a home in Washington, D.C. for fifteen years prior to Buchanan's presidency.[2] Buchanan and King's close relationship prompted Andrew Jackson to refer to King as "Miss Nancy" and "Aunt Fancy", while Aaron V. Brown spoke of the two as "Buchanan and his wife".[3][4] Further, some of the contemporary press also speculated about Buchanan and King's relationship. Buchanan and King's nieces destroyed their uncles' correspondence, leaving some questions as to what relationship the two men had, but surviving letters illustrate the affection of a special friendship, and Buchanan wrote of his communion with his housemate.[3] Buchanan wrote in 1844, after King left for France, "I am now solitary and alone, having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them. I feel that it is not good for man to be alone; and should not be astonished to find myself married to some old maid who can nurse me when I am sick, provide good dinners for me when I am well, and not expect from me any very ardent or romantic affection." Such expression, however, was not unusual amongst men at the time. While the circumstances surrounding Buchanan and King have led authors such as Paul Boller to speculate that Buchanan was "America's first homosexual president", there is no direct evidence that he and King had a sexual relationship.[3]


King's tomb is located at the Old Live Oak Cemetery in Selma, Alabama, and is accompanied by a historical marker.

In honor of his election as Vice President, in December 1852 Oregon Territory named King County for him, as well as Pierce County after President-elect Pierce. These counties became part of Washington Territory when it was created the following year. Washington did not become a state until 1889, and Pierce and King counties still exist.

Much later, King County amended its designation and its logo to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.; the county's action was taken by ordinance and this decision was later reinforced by statutory action by the State of Washington (SB 5332, April 19, 2005).


  1. ^ a b United States Senate: William Rufus King, 13th Vice President (1853)
  2. ^ Klein, Philip S.; President James Buchanan: A Biography; Newtown, CT: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1962; pg. 111
  3. ^ a b c Baker, Jean H.; James Buchanan; Henry Holt and Company; 2004; pages 25-26
  4. ^ Boller, Paul F.; Not So!, New York: Oxford University Press, 1995; pg 75

External links

Political offices
Title last held by
Millard Fillmore
Vice President of the United States
March 4, 1853 – April 18, 1853
Title next held by
John C. Breckinridge
Preceded by
David Rice Atchison
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
May 6, 1850 – December 20, 1852
Succeeded by
David Rice Atchison
Preceded by
John Tyler
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
July 1, 1836 – March 4, 1841
Succeeded by
Samuel L. Southard
United States Senate
Preceded by
Arthur P. Bagby
United States Senator (Class 3) from Alabama
July 1, 1848 – December 20, 1852
Served alongside: Benjamin Fitzpatrick, Jeremiah Clemens
Succeeded by
Benjamin Fitzpatrick
Preceded by
New office
United States Senator (Class 2) from Alabama
December 14, 1819 – April 15, 1844
Served alongside: John Williams Walker, William Kelly,
Henry H. Chambers, Israel Pickens, John McKinley,
Gabriel Moore, Clement C. Clay, Arthur P. Bagby
Succeeded by
Dixon Hall Lewis
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Thomas Kenan
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 5th congressional district

March 4, 1811 – November 4, 1816
Succeeded by
Charles Hooks
Party political offices
Preceded by
William Orlando Butler
Democratic Party vice presidential candidate
Succeeded by
John C. Breckinridge
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Lewis Cass
United States Minister to France
April 9, 1844 – September 15, 1846
Succeeded by
Richard Rush


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

William Rufus deVane King (April 7, 1786April 18, 1853) was a U.S. Representative from North Carolina, a Senator from Alabama, and the thirteenth Vice President of the United States.


  • GENTLEMEN: Before the Senate adjourns, I desire to return my thanks for the very kind and complimentary resolution unanimously passed on Saturday last, and to assure the Senate that so long as I shall have the honor of continuing Presiding Officer, my highest ambition will be to retain the personal regard and confidence of my colleagues. In pursuance of the resolution adopted on Saturday last, I now declare the Senate adjourned sine die
    • The Congressional globe, 33rd United States Congress (1853-04-11)

External links

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