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Background information for William R. King
Researched & written by Judith C. Ware 
Judy C. Ware, 2008

Most of the following information was obtained from Wikipedia in 2008


William Rufus King was a U.S. Representative from North Carolina, a Senator from Alabama, and the thirteenth Vice President of the United States.

Mr. King was born in Sampson County, North Carolina in 1786, and he graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1803. He first practiced law in Clinton, North Carolina.  Later on he was elected to the Twelfth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Congresses, serving from March 4, 1811 until November 4, 1816.  Senator King later became Secretary of the Legation at Naples, Italy and then also at St. Petersburg, Russia. He returned to the United States in 1818 and moved to Cahawba, Alabama, where he became a slaveholder on a large plantation.

King was a delegate to the convention which organized the State government of Alabama. Upon its admission to the Union as a state in 1819, he was elected as a Democratic-Republican to the United States Senate.  He was reelected as a Jacksonian in 1822, 1828, 1834, and 1841, serving from December 14, 1819, until April 15, 1844, when he resigned.

Senator King was considered a likely Democratic candidate for Vice-President in 1838 and again in 1844, but by April of 1844, President John Tyler had appointed him as Minister to France.  He served in that capacity from 1844 to 1846. He was then appointed and subsequently elected as a Democrat to the Senate and began serving on July 1, 1848.  His years of serving as a United States senator were from 1819 to 1844 and then from 1848 to 1852.

In 1852, William R. King was elected Vice President of the United States on the Democratic ticket with Franklin Pierce.  He actually took the oath of office on March 24, 1853 in Cuba, where he had gone because of his health.  He was terminally ill with tuberculosis and most people felt he would not live much longer. The privilege of taking the oath on foreign soil was extended by a special act of Congress because of his long and distinguished service to the government of the United States.

Vice President King returned to Alabama but did subsequently die of tuberculosis after only 45 days in office.  His term lasted only a few short weeks, and he was never able to perform a single official act as Vice President.


American National Biography
; Dictionary of American Biography; Martin, John M. “William Rufus King: Southern Moderate.” Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Carolina, 1955; U.S. Congress. Memorial Addresses. 33rd Cong., 1st sess., 1853. Washington, D.C.: Armstrong, 1854.

 

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