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About John Baxter
John Baxter (March 5, 1819 – April 2, 1886) was an American attorney and jurist who served as a judge on the United States Circuit Court from 1877 to 1886. Initially a Whig, he had previously served several terms in the North Carolina House of Commons, including one term as speaker, before moving to Knoxville, Tennessee, to practice law.
Baxter opposed secession on the eve of the Civil War, and was a delegate to the East Tennessee Union Convention, which sought to create a separate, Union-aligned state in East Tennessee. He subsequently took the Oath of Allegiance to the Confederacy, in part to provide legal defense for Unionists charged in Confederate courts. Those he defended during the course of the war included several members of the East Tennessee bridge-burning conspiracy and several participants of the Great Locomotive Chase. He ran unsuccessfully for the Confederate Congress in September 1861. By mid-1862, he had returned to his pro-Union stance.
Baxter supported Democratic presidential candidate George B. McClellan in 1864, but would eventually join the Republican Party. In 1870, he was a delegate to the state constitutional convention that created the current Tennessee State Constitution.