John S. Barbour Jr.

John Strode Barbour Jr. (December 29, 1820 – May 14, 1892) was a slave owner,[1] U.S. Representative and a Senator from Virginia, and fought against the United States in the Confederate Army. He is best remembered for taking power in Virginia from the short-lived Readjuster Party in the late 1880s, forming the first political machine of "Conservative Democrats", whose power was to last 80 years until the demise of the Byrd Organization in the late 1960s.[2]

John Strode Barbour Jr.
BARBOUR, John S (BEP engraved portrait).jpg
United States Senator
from Virginia
In office
March 4, 1889 – May 14, 1892
Preceded byHarrison H. Riddleberger
Succeeded byEppa Hunton
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 8th district
In office
March 4, 1881 – March 3, 1887
Preceded byEppa Hunton
Succeeded byWilliam H. F. Lee
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Culpeper County
In office
December 6, 1847 – January 12, 1852
Preceded byDaniel F. Slaughter
Succeeded byJames Barbour
Personal details
Born(1820-12-29)December 29, 1820
Culpeper, Virginia, U.S.
DiedMay 14, 1892(1892-05-14) (aged 71)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Susan Dangerfield
(died 1886)
RelativesJames Barbour (brother)
John S. Barbour (nephew)
Alma materUniversity of Virginia (LLB)

Early lifeEdit

Barbour was born on December 29, 1820, at Catalpa, near Culpeper, Virginia, the son of Virginia delegate and future U.S. Representative John S. Barbour.[3] He had two sisters and a younger brother.[citation needed] Barbour attended the common schools and graduated from the law department of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.[3] He married Susan Dangerfield, daughter of a prominent family in Prince George's County, Maryland.[citation needed] His wife died in 1886.[4]


Following his father's career path, Barbour was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1841 and began his legal practice in Culpeper. Five years later he ran for and won election as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, serving (part-time, along with his private legal practice) from 1847 to 1851. Barbour became president of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad Co., serving from 1852 to 1881.[3]

During the American Civil War, Barbour was a Confederate officer, as was his younger brother James. The family's Fleetwood Hill hosted General J.E.B. Stuart after the Confederate victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville, but the June 1863 engagement with Union forces, the Battle of Brandy Station (perhaps the largest cavalry battle of the war) was considered a draw.

After the war, both John and James resumed their legal careers, but while John concentrated in railroad matters, James bought the Richmond Enquirer and became its editor. After the restoration of civil rights to Confederate officers, John Barbour was elected as a Democrat to the Forty-seventh, and two succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1881 - March 3, 1887). He succeeded Eppa Hunton II, a fellow Shenandoah valley lawyer who declined to seek renomination. Barbour served as chairman of the Committee on the District of Columbia (Forty-eighth and Forty-ninth Congresses). He declined to be a candidate for renomination in 1886, months after the death of his wife (and the year after his brother James was elected to Virginia's House of Delegates).

In the late 1880s, Barbour joined with other Conservative Democrats and opposed the Readjuster Party, a coalition of blacks and Republicans led by Harrison H. Riddleberger and William Mahone. He helped form the first political machine of "Conservative Democrats", whose power was to last 80 years until the demise of the Byrd Organization in the late 1960s.

In 1888, Barbour ran to succeed Senator Riddleberger when he declined to seek re-election (and died the following year).[citation needed] Elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate Barbour served from March 4, 1889 until his death.[3] Hunton was appointed to serve until the election for the remainder of the term, which he won but declined to seek a full term.

Death and legacyEdit

Barbour died at his home in Washington, D.C. on May 14, 1892. He was interred in the burial ground at "Poplar Hill", Prince George's County, Maryland beside his wife Susan.[3][4] His brother James' son, John S. Barbour, briefly became a newspaper editor, and later lawyer and mayor of Culpeper, although he moved to Fairfax County, Virginia.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Congress slaveowners", The Washington Post, 2022-01-19, retrieved 2022-01-24
  2. ^ Rossiter, Johnson, ed. (1906). Biographical dictionary of America. Vol. 1. Boston: American Biographical Society. OL 7026005M.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Barbour, John Strode, Jr". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 2022-02-20.
  4. ^ a b "The Senate in Mourning". Weekly Charlotte Observer. 1892-05-16. p. 1. Retrieved 2022-02-20 – via 

External linksEdit

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 8th congressional district

March 4, 1881 – March 4, 1887
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 2) from Virginia
March 4, 1889 – May 14, 1892
Served alongside: John W. Daniel
Succeeded by