Category: Representatives of Virginia (U.S.)

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Booker, George William (1821–1884)

George William Booker’s political career, which included a term in Congress (1869–1871), provides an example of the shifting political alliances during and after the American Civil War (1861–1865). A strong Unionist during the secession crisis, he voted for the Ordinance of Secession to avoid reprisals from his neighbors. A post as justice of the peace kept him from military service during the Civil War. Booker won election to the House of Delegates in 1865 representing Henry County and aligned himself with former Whig John Minor Botts during the formation of Virginia’s Republican Party. The Republicans nominated him for attorney general in 1868, but elections were postponed. The next year he won a seat in the House of Representatives as a True Republican, an alliance between moderate members of his party and Democratic-aligned Conservatives in opposition to the Radical Republicans. He moderated his earlier anti-secession views and advocated an amnesty for former Confederates. Declining a run for a second term, he returned to the House of Delegates where he became one of the Conservative Party’s floor leaders. He died near Martinsville in 1884.

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Bouldin, James Wood (ca. 1792–1854)

James Wood Bouldin was a member of the House of Delegates (1825–1826) and the U.S. House of Representatives (1834–1839). Born in Charlotte County, he practiced law there and served one term in the General Assembly. Then, in 1834, his brother died unexpectedly while serving in Congress and Bouldin was pressed into service as his replacement. A Democrat and ally of the Andrew Jackson administration, he won election against Beverley Tucker, finishing his brother’s term and serving two more after that. In Washington he sat on the Committee on the District of Columbia (1835–1839) and vigorously opposed the abolition of slavery in the District. He also supported the independence and eventual statehood of Texas. Bouldin died in 1854.

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Bouldin, Thomas Tyler (d. 1834)

Thomas Tyler Bouldin was a member of the General Court (1821–1829) and the U.S. House of Representatives (1829–1834). Born in Charlotte County to a prominent family, he studied law and won a seat on the General Court, riding circuit to preside over criminal cases and hear appeals. At the same time he operated a law practice and a plantation, making him very wealthy. A protégé of John Randolph of Roanoke, he ran for Congress in 1829 only to be defeated by his mentor after two terms, in 1833. When Randolph died in office, however, Bouldin returned to the capital only to himself die after collapsing in the House chamber in 1834.

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Breckinridge, James (1763–1833)

James Breckinridge was member of the House of Delegates (1789–1791, 1796–1802, 1806–1808, 1819–1821, 1823–1824), the U.S. House of Representatives (1809–1817), and the board of visitors of the University of Virginia (1819–1833). Born near what is now Fincastle in what was then southern Augusta County, Breckinridge came from a powerful family. (His brother John Breckinridge served in the U.S. Senate and as U.S. attorney general.) After serving during the Revolutionary War (1775–1783), Breckinridge studied law under George Wythe, then opened a practice in Fincastle and began his long political career. He served several terms in the House of Delegates before being elected to Congress as a Federalist in 1809. Although he opposed war with Britain in 1812 he led the militia as a brigadier general, helping to shore up defenses around Washington, D.C., and Baltimore. Breckinridge served four terms in the House of Representatives and then returned to the House of Delegates in 1819. That same year he was appointed to the board of visitors of the newly established University of Virginia, serving until his death. Breckinridge lived on a large farm, Grove Hill, in Botetourt County, but also speculated in land and had a diverse set of business interests. He died at Grove Hill in 1833.

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Burch, T. G. (1869–1951)

T. G. Burch was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1931–1946) and briefly served in the U.S. Senate (1946). As a congressman he represented an eight-county district in southern Virginia along the North Carolina border. Reapportionment added a ninth county beginning with the 74th Congress. A colleague of the conservative Democratic U.S. senator Harry F. Byrd, Burch was briefly considered by Byrd and his advisers as a gubernatorial candidate for the 1937 election; however, Burch’s unorthodox plan for teacher pay upset the Byrd Organization, which removed him from the inner circle of Virginia politics.

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Byrne, Leslie (1946– )

Leslie Byrne was the first woman elected to the U.S. Congress from Virginia, serving as a Democrat for one term, from January 3, 1993, until January 3, 1995. Byrne emerged as a skilled fund-raiser and hard-nosed campaigner, but her tenure in Congress was marked by Democratic defeats over health care issues and her own sometimes difficult relationships with fellow representatives. In addition to her term in Congress, Byrne served in the House of Delegates (1986–1992) and the Senate of Virginia (2000–2003). She also served as the White House Director of Consumer Affairs under U.S. president Bill Clinton.

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Carlile, John S. (1817–1878)

John S. Carlile was a member of the Convention of 1850–1851, the U.S. House of Representatives (1856–1858), the Convention of 1861, the First and Second Wheeling Conventions of 1861, and the United States Senate (1861–1865). As an active and outspoken participant in the Convention of 1850, he supported democratic reforms that invested western Virginia with more political power. In Congress, he supported the rights of slave owners, but as a delegate to the state convention during the secession crisis of 1861, he vehemently opposed leaving the Union, calling secession “a crime against God.” The convention voted to secede anyway, and during the American Civil War (1861–1865), Carlile became a U.S. senator representing the Restored government of Virginia. In Washington, D.C., he helped shepherd the West Virginia statehood bill through Congress, only to vote against it in 1862, citing the bill’s requirement that the new state adopt a plan of gradual emancipation. While Carlile remained in the Senate until 1865, he had so angered—and confused—his new West Virginia constituents that his political career was largely over. He died on his farm near Clarksburg in 1878.

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Chilton, Samuel (1805–1867)

Samuel Chilton was a lawyer, a member of the House of Representatives (1843–1845), and a member of the Convention of 1850–1851, the purpose of which was the revision of the Virginia constitution. He is best known for sitting on a committee appointed during the convention to report on the apportionment of the General Assembly. Chilton supported calculating legislative representation on the basis of population and property holding, but proposed a key compromise with western delegates who held opposing views. His plan for apportionment passed, and on July 31, 1851, Chilton voted with the majority in favor of the final version of the state constitution. Chilton moved to Washington, D.C., by 1853, when he joined the American (Know Nothing) Party. In 1859 he and Hiram Griswold represented John Brown for the final two days of the treason trial that followed Brown’s 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry. Though Chilton tried to appeal the guilty verdict, he was unsuccessful, and ultimately was forced to testify before a Senate committee about the circumstances surrounding his hiring and subsequent payment. After the trial, Chilton reportedly was offered and refused a position on Abraham Lincoln’s administration. He died in Warrenton on January 7, 1867.

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Claiborne, Nathaniel Herbert (1775–1859)

Nathaniel Herbert Claiborne was a member of the House of Delegates (1810–1812), the Council of State (1812–1817), the Senate of Virginia (1821–1825), and the U.S. House of Representatives (1825–1837). Claiborne also served as a member of the Rockfish Gap Commission, which chose Charlottesville as the site of the University of Virginia, and as commonwealth’s attorney for Franklin County. As a U.S. representative, he generally supported the policies of President Andrew Jackson until 1832, when he began to vote with the anti-Jackson faction. After losing reelection in 1836, Claiborne retired from politics and spent his remaining years on his farm near Rocky Mount.

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Custis, William H. B. (1814–1889)

William H. B. Custis was a member of the House of Delegates (1842–1846) and the Convention of 1861 and a member-elect of the House of Representatives. Born in Accomack County and educated in Indiana, he served in the House of Delegates as a Democrat known for his eloquence and speaking skills. At the state convention called to consider secession in 1861, Custis strongly supported remaining in the Union as the best means of protecting slavery and twice voted against the Ordinance of Secession; he nevertheless signed the document. His activities during the American Civil War (1861–1865) are unknown. In 1865, he was elected to represent the First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives but Radical Republicans prevented members from former Confederate states from being seated. Thereafter, he served as clerk of the Accomack County Court and of the circuit court. He died in 1889.

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