About William Alexander Graham
William Alexander Graham (September 5, 1804 – August 11, 1875) was a United States Senator from North Carolina from 1840 to 1843, the 30th Governor of North Carolina from 1845 to 1849 and United States Secretary of the Navy from 1850 to 1852. He was also a candidate for the vice-presidency in 1852.
Graham was born near Lincolnton, North Carolina. His Scotch-Irish grandfather James Graham (1714-1763) was born in Drumbo, County Down, Northern Ireland and settled in Chester County in the Province of Pennsylvania. William A. Graham graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a member of the Dialectic Society. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1825, and commenced practice in Hillsborough.
From 1833 to 1840 Graham was a member of the North Carolina House of Commons from Orange County, serving twice as speaker.
In 1840 Graham was elected as a Whig to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Robert Strange, and served from November 25, 1840, to March 4, 1843. In the Twenty-seventh Congress he was chairman of the Senate Committee on Claims. His older brother, James Graham, had been representing North Carolina in the House since 1833.
From 1845 to 1849 Graham was Governor of North Carolina. Having declined appointments as ambassador to Spain and Russia in 1849, he was appointed Secretary of the Navy in the cabinet of President Millard Fillmore in 1850, and served until 1852. In the 1852 presidential election he was the unsuccessful Whig nominee for vice president, as Winfield Scott's running mate. Returning to North Carolina, he was a member of the state senate from 1854 to 1866, and senator in the Confederate Congress from 1864 to 1865.
Later life and legacy
In 1866 Graham was once again elected to the United States Senate, but because North Carolina had not yet been readmitted to the Union, he did not present his credentials. From 1867 to 1875 he was a member of the board of trustees of the Peabody Fund, which provided educational assistance to the post-Civil War South. From 1873 to 1875 he was an arbitrator in the boundary line dispute between Virginia and Maryland. He died in Saratoga Springs, New York, and is buried in the Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Hillsborough.
The United States Navy ship, USS Graham (DD-192), the World War II Liberty ship SS William A. Graham, and the city of Graham, North Carolina were all named for him.
Montrose Gardens, located in Hillsborough, North Carolina, is one of Graham's former estates and still features some of the structures Graham and his family had built on the property.
One of Graham's sons, also named William A. Graham, became a state legislator and state agriculture commissioner. Two others, Augustus and John, also became politicians, while a daughter, Susan, married Walter Clark.