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William Wilkins (American politician)

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William Wilkins (December 20, 1779 – June 23, 1865) was a United States Representative and United States Senator from Pennsylvania, a member of both houses of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, United States Minister to Russia and the 19th United States Secretary of War.

William Wilkins
William Wilkins United States Senator - Brady-Handy.jpg
19th United States Secretary of War
In office
February 15, 1844 – March 4, 1845
PresidentJohn Tyler
Preceded byJames Madison Porter
Succeeded byWilliam L. Marcy
Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee
In office
1843–1844
Preceded byDaniel D. Barnard
Succeeded byRomulus Mitchell Saunders
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 21st district
In office
March 4, 1843 – February 14, 1844
Preceded byThomas McKennan
Succeeded byCornelius Darragh
United States Minister to Russia
In office
December 14, 1834 – December 24, 1835
PresidentAndrew Jackson
Preceded byJames Buchanan
Succeeded byJohn Randolph Clay (acting)
United States Senator
from Pennsylvania
In office
March 4, 1831 – June 30, 1834
Preceded byWilliam Marks
Succeeded byJames Buchanan
Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
In office
May 12, 1824 – April 14, 1831
Appointed byJames Monroe
Preceded byJonathan Hoge Walker
Succeeded byThomas Irwin
Personal details
Born
William Wilkins

(1779-12-20)December 20, 1779
Carlisle, Pennsylvania
DiedJune 23, 1865(1865-06-23) (aged 85)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Resting placeHomewood Cemetery
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Political partyJacksonian Democrat
RelationsJohn Wilkins Jr.
Ross Wilkins
EducationDickinson College
read law

Education and careerEdit

Born on December 20, 1779, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania,[1] Wilkins attended the Pittsburgh Academy, the forerunner of the University of Pittsburgh.[2] He read law in 1801 and graduated from Dickinson College in 1802.[1] He was admitted to the bar and entered private practice in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from 1801 to 1806.[1] He continued private practice in Lexington, Kentucky from 1806 to 1807.[1] He resumed private practice in Pittsburgh from 1808 to 1815.[1] He assisted in organizing the Pittsburgh Manufacturing Company in 1810.[3] He was the first President of the Bank of Pittsburgh.[3] He was President of the Pittsburgh City Council from 1816 to 1819.[1] He was a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1819 to 1820.[1] He was President Judge of the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas for the Fifth Judicial District from 1820 to 1824.[1]

Federal judicial serviceEdit

Wilkins was nominated by President James Monroe on May 10, 1824, to a seat on the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania vacated by Judge Jonathan Hoge Walker.[1] He was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 12, 1824, and received his commission the same day.[1] His service terminated on April 14, 1831, due to his resignation.[1]

Congressional races during his judicial tenureEdit

Wilkins was an unsuccessful candidate for election in 1826 to the 20th United States Congress.[3] He was elected as a Jacksonian Democrat to the 21st United States Congress, but resigned before qualifying, never taking his seat.[3]

United States Senate and diplomatic serviceEdit

Wilkins was elected as a Jacksonian Democrat to the United States Senate from Pennsylvania and served from March 4, 1831, to June 30, 1834, when he resigned.[3] He was Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary from the 22nd United States Congress and Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations for the 23rd United States Congress.[3] Following his departure from Congress, Wilkins served as United States Minister to Russia for the United States Department of State from 1834 to 1836.[1] He resumed private practice in Pittsburgh from 1836 to 1843.[1] He was an unsuccessful candidate for election to the 27th United States Congress in 1840.[3]

United States House serviceEdit

Wilkins was elected as a Democrat from Pennsylvania's 21st congressional district to the United States House of Representatives of the 28th United States Congress and served from December 4, 1843, to February 14, 1844, when he resigned.[3] He was Chairman of the United States House Committee on the Judiciary for the 28th United States Congress.[3]

Later careerEdit

Wilkins was appointed as the 19th United States Secretary of War by President John Tyler, serving from 1844 to 1845.[3] He resumed private practice in Pittsburgh starting in 1845.[1] He was a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate from 1855 to 1857.[1] He again resumed private practice in Pittsburgh from 1858 to 1865.[1] He was a major general of the Pennsylvania Home Guards in 1862.[3]

DeathEdit

Wilkins died on June 23, 1865, in Homewood, now a neighborhood in Pittsburgh.[1] He was interred in Homewood Cemetery.[3]

FamilyEdit

Wilkins' brother John Wilkins Jr. served as a Major General in the United States Army.[citation needed] His nephew, Ross Wilkins, was a notable jurist in Michigan.[citation needed]

HonorEdit

Wilkins is the namesake of Wilkins Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania,[4] while the town of Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania is named after his aforementioned brother.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q William Wilkins at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  2. ^ Starrett, Agnes Lynch (1937). Through one hundred and fifty years: the University of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press. p. 45. Retrieved August 1, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l United States Congress. "William Wilkins (id: W000475)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  4. ^ Porter, Thomas J. Jr. (May 10, 1984). "Town names carry a little bit of history". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 1. Retrieved 26 May 2015.

SourcesEdit

External linksEdit