The Info List - William R. King

William Rufus DeVane King (April 7, 1786 – April 18, 1853) was an American politician and diplomat. He was the 13th Vice President of the United States for six weeks in 1853 before his death. Earlier he had been elected as a U.S. Representative from North Carolina
North Carolina
and a Senator from Alabama. He also served as Minister to France during the reign of King Louis Philippe I. A Democrat, he was a Unionist and his contemporaries considered him to be a moderate on the issues of sectionalism, slavery and westward expansion, which contributed to the American Civil War. He helped draft the Compromise of 1850.[2] He is the only United States executive official to take the oath of office on foreign soil; he was inaugurated in Havana, Cuba
due to poor health. 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 is the shortest-serving Vice President. King was the only Vice President from the State of Alabama
and held the highest political office of any Alabamian in American history. He was the fourth Vice President to die in office.


1 Early life 2 Political career 3 Relationship with James Buchanan 4 Vice Presidency and death 5 Legacy and honors 6 See also 7 References 8 External links

Early life[edit] King was born in Sampson County, North Carolina, to William King and Margaret deVane. His family was large, wealthy and well-connected. He graduated from the University of North Carolina
North Carolina
at Chapel Hill in 1803, where he was also a member of the Philanthropic Society. Admitted to the bar in 1806 after reading the law with Judge William Duffy of Fayetteville, North Carolina, he began practice in Clinton. King was an ardent Freemason, and was a member of Fayetteville's Phoenix Lodge No. 8. Political career[edit]

Portrait of King, circa 1840s

King entered politics and was elected as a member of the North Carolina House of Commons, where he served from 1807 to 1809, and he became city solicitor of Wilmington, North Carolina
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 to become Secretary of the Legation
for William Pinkney
William Pinkney
during Pinkney's appointment as Minister to Russia and special diplomatic mission in Naples. When he returned to the United States in 1818, King joined the westward migration of the cotton culture to the Deep South, purchasing property at what would later be known as "King's Bend" between present-day Selma and Cahaba on the Alabama
River in Dallas County of the new Alabama
Territory, which had been recently separated from Mississippi. He developed a large cotton plantation based on slave labor, calling the property "Chestnut Hill". King and his relatives formed one of the largest slaveholding families in the state, collectively owning as many as 500. William Rufus King
Rufus King
was a delegate to the convention which organized the Alabama
state government. Upon the admission of Alabama
as the twenty-second State in 1819 he was elected by the State Legislature as a Democratic-Republican to the United States Senate. King was a follower of Andrew Jackson, and was reelected to the Senate as a Jacksonian in 1822, 1828, 1834, and 1841, serving from December 14, 1819, until his resignation on April 15, 1844. During this time, in March–April 1824, William R. King
William R. King
was honored with a single vote at the Democratic-Republican Party
Democratic-Republican Party
Caucus to be the party's candidate for the Office of U.S. Vice President
U.S. Vice President
for the upcoming 1824 Presidential election. Later he served as President pro tempore of the United States Senate
United States Senate
during the 24th through 27th Congresses. King was Chairman of the Senate's Committee on Public Lands and the Committee on Commerce. He was appointed as Minister to France, and served from 1844 to 1846. After his return, King resumed serving in the Senate, appointed and subsequently elected to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Arthur P. Bagby. He held his seat from July 1, 1848 until resigning because of ill health on December 20, 1852, after having been elected Vice President. During the conflicts leading up to the Compromise of 1850, King supported the Senate's gag rule against debate on antislavery petitions and opposed proposals to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, which was administered by Congress.[3] King supported a conservative, pro-slavery position, arguing that the Constitution protected the institution of slavery in both the Southern states and the federal territories. He opposed both the abolitionists' efforts to abolish slavery in the territories as well as the "Fire-Eaters" calls for Southern secession.[3] On July 11, 1850, two days after the death of President Zachary Taylor, King was appointed Senate President pro tempore. Because Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore
ascended to the presidency, the vice presidency was vacant, making King first in the line of succession under the law then in effect. He also served as Chairman of the Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Pensions. Relationship with James Buchanan[edit]

James Buchanan, (1791–1868), 15th President of the United States (served 1857–1861). He shared a Washington boardinghouse with his friend and colleague, William R. King.

While many believe King may have been asexual or heterosexual (but celibate), and there are many indicators that suggest he was homosexual, there is evidence to support the fact that he in fact did have a heterosexual relationship and possibly children. In Washington City on December 8th, 1824 he wrote a personal letter to then Alabama Governor, Israel Pickens
Israel Pickens
regarding his "wayward heart that loves but once and loved forever." Pickens wife had recently passed away. King wrote that "...unfortunate as you have been in the loss of a most amiable and excellent woman, I am almost induced to envy you when I contrast your situation with mine; her lovely offspring are with you, you are training them up in the paths of virtue, and they bid fair to be an ornament to their Country, and to make glad the heart of their Father in the evening of his days." King continued, "You ask, why should it be so? I can only say such is the decree of fate; mine is a wayward heart that loves but once and loved forever. Of Petersburg or of those residing in its vicinity, I know but little, between me and them there never was a community of sentiment, variety, and youthful folly, may have mislead me for a — moment, but returning reason convinced me that perfect esteem entwined my desire ineffable." Was he speaking of Petersburg, Georgia
Petersburg, Georgia
now covered by a large TVA lake or Petersburg, Virginia outside of Washington. It is unclear but this is clear evidence of a lost love "...of Petersburg" and "...of those residing in this vicinity."[4] The argument of homosexuality has been put forward by biographer Jean Baker,[5] supported by Shelley Ross, James W. Loewen, and Robert P. Watson. The source of this interest has been King's close and intimate relationship with President James Buchanan. The two men lived together for 13 years from 1840 until King's death in 1853. Buchanan referred to the relationship as a "communion",[6] and the two attended all parties together. Contemporaries also noted the closeness. Andrew Jackson called them "Miss Nancy" and "Aunt Fancy" (the former being a 19th-century euphemism for an effeminate man[7]), while Aaron V. Brown referred to King as Buchanan's "better half".[8] James Loewen has described Buchanan and King as "siamese twins". Buchanan adopted King's mannerisms and romanticised view of southern culture. Both had strong political ambitions and in 1844 they planned to run as president and vice president. Both men were soft, effeminate and eccentric.[6] They spent some time apart while King was on overseas missions in France, and their letters remain cryptic, avoiding revealing any personal feelings at all. In May 1844, Buchanan wrote to Cornelia Roosevelt, "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 [I] 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."[6] After King died in 1853 Buchanan described him as "among the best, the purest and most consistent public men I have known."[6] While some of their correspondence were destroyed by family members, the length and intimacy of surviving letters illustrate "the affection of a special friendship".[9] Vice Presidency and death[edit]

Frontispiece of book of memorial addresses published after King's death

The 1852 Democratic National Convention
1852 Democratic National Convention
was held at the 1851 Maryland Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts Hall in Baltimore. Franklin Pierce
Franklin Pierce
was nominated for President, and King was nominated for Vice President. Pierce and King defeated the Whig candidates, Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott
and William Alexander Graham. (While attending college, King and Graham had been members of rival campus organizations in Chapel Hill; King belonging to the Philanthropic Society and Graham to the Dialectic Society.) Because King was ill with tuberculosis and had traveled to Cuba
in an effort to regain his health, he was not able to be in Washington to take his oath of office on March 4, 1853. By a Special Act of Congress, he was allowed to take the oath outside the United States, and was sworn in on March 24, 1853 near Matanzas, Cuba.[3][10][11] Shortly afterward, King returned to Chestnut Hill, where he died within two days. He was interred in a vault on the plantation and later reburied in Selma's Old Live Oak Cemetery.[12] King never carried out any duties of the office.[13] The U.S. Senate
U.S. Senate
displays a bust of King in its collection, even though he never presided over a legislative session as Vice President.[14] Following King's death, the office of Vice President was vacant until John C. Breckinridge
John C. Breckinridge
was inaugurated with President James Buchanan
James Buchanan
in March 1857.

Engraving of Chestnut Hill, published following King's death in the Illustrated News, New York, April 30, 1853. The house was destroyed by fire during the 1920s.

Crypt of William R. King
William R. King
in Live Oak Cemetery, Selma, Alabama.

Legacy and honors[edit]

In 1852, the Oregon Territorial Legislature
Oregon Territorial Legislature
named King County for him. King County became part of Washington Territory
Washington Territory
when it was created the following year. The King County government later amended its designation and its logo to honor instead the late national Civil Rights movement leader, Martin Luther King Jr., (1929–1968).[15][16] The King Residence Quadrangle at the University of North Carolina
North Carolina
at Chapel Hill, his alma mater, is named for him.[citation needed]

An 1830 portrait of King is held at New East Hall in the Philanthropic Chambers by the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies, a debating society which he had joined during college.[citation needed]

King was a co-founder of (and named) Selma, a town on the Alabama River which he named after the Ossianic poem "The Songs of Selma".[2] After his death, city officials and some of King's family wanted to move his body to Selma. Other family members wanted his body to remain at "Chestnut Hill". In 1882, the Selma City Council appointed a committee to select a new plot for King's body. His remains were then reinterred in the city's Live Oak Cemetery
Live Oak Cemetery
under a white marble mausoleum erected by the city.[17]

See also[edit]

Biography portal


^ King was inaugurated—in Havana, in the Spanish colony of Cuba—twenty days after his term began (March 4) due to poor health. He was the first and only vice-president to be sworn in on foreign soil. ^ a b Daniel Fate Brooks (2003). "The Faces of William R. King" (PDF). Alabama
Heritage. University of Alabama, University of Alabama
at Birmingham, Alabama
Department of Archives and History. 69 (Summer): 14–23. Retrieved 2013-05-03.  ^ a b c "U.S. Senate: William Rufus King, 13th Vice President (1853)". www.senate.gov.  ^ Bankhead Owen, Marie; Kilpatrick, Emmett, eds. (Summer 1941). "Letter of Condolence and Other Subjects From Senator Rufus King
Rufus King
to Governor Israel Pickens". The Alabama
Historical Quarterly. 3 (2): 232–234.  ^ Jean H. Baker, James Buchanan: The American Presidents Series: The 15th President, 1857–1861, 2004, page 26 ^ a b c d Robert Watson, Affairs of State: The untold story of presidential love sex and scandal, 1789-1900, Plymouth, 2012 ^ The Wordsworth Book of Euphemisms by Judith S. Neaman and Carole G. Silver (Wordsworth Editions Ltd., Hertfordshire) ^ Baker (2004), p. 75. ^ Jean H. Baker, James Buchanan: The American Presidents Series: The 15th President, 1857–1861, 2004, pages 25–26 ^ Benson Lossing, ed. (1907). Harper's Encyclopedia of United States History. Harper & Brothers. p. 195. Retrieved July 15, 2013.  ^ "Vice Presidential Inaugurations". Architect of the Capitol. Retrieved July 15, 2013.  ^ Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Locations 25688-25689). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition. ^ Patrick, John J.; Pious, Richard M.; Ritchie, Donald A., eds. (2001). The Oxford Guide to the United States Government. Oxford University Press. p. 363. Retrieved June 24, 2013. CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link) ^ "Busts of Vice Presidents of the United States". Architect of the Capitol. Retrieved June 24, 2013.  ^ "Motion No. 6461 (King County, WA)". King County, WA. Retrieved 11 December 2013.  ^ "State law changed to rename King County". King County, Washington. Retrieved 11 December 2013.  ^ Jaffee, Al (1979). The Ghoulish Book of Weird Records. Signet. pp. 136–140. ISBN 0-451-08614-7. 

External links[edit]

Wikiquote has quotations related to: William R. King

United States Congress. " William R. King
William R. King
(id: K000217)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.  Who is William Rufus King? Obituary addresses on the occasion of the death of the Hon. William R. King, of Alabama, vice-president of the United States : delivered in the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, eighth of December, 1853 William R. King
William R. King
at Find a Grave

U.S. 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

U.S. Senate

Preceded by New office U.S. 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 and Arthur P. Bagby Succeeded by Dixon Hall Lewis

Preceded by Arthur P. Bagby U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Alabama July 1, 1848 – December 20, 1852 Served alongside: Dixon H. Lewis, Benjamin Fitzpatrick
Benjamin Fitzpatrick
and Jeremiah Clemens Succeeded by Benjamin Fitzpatrick

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Preceded by Lewis Cass United States Minister to France April 9, 1844 – September 15, 1846 Succeeded by Richard Rush

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Preceded by John Tyler President pro tempore of the United States Senate July 1, 1836 – March 4, 1841 Succeeded by Samuel L. Southard

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 Millard Fillmore Vice President of the United States March 4, 1853 – April 18, 1853 Succeeded by John C. Breckinridge

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Preceded by William Orlando Butler Democratic nominee for Vice President of the United States 1852 Succeeded by John C. Breckinridge

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(1848 ←) United States presidential election, 1852
United States presidential election, 1852
(1856 →)

Democratic Party Convention


Franklin Pierce

VP nominee

William R. King


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VP nominee

William A. Graham


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WorldCat Identities VIAF: 61410158 LCCN: nr92028983 US Congress: K000217 SN