About William Wilkins
William Wilkins (December 20, 1779 – June 23, 1865) was an American lawyer, jurist, and politician from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During his career, he served in both houses of the Pennsylvania State Legislature, and in all three branches of the United States federal government, including service as a United States federal judge, as a member of both the House and Senate, and as a cabinet member.
Early life, education, and career
Born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Wilkins attended Pittsburgh Academy, read law in 1801 and graduated from Dickinson College in 1802. He was in private practice in Pittsburgh from 1801 to 1806, then in Lexington, Kentucky from 1806 to 1807, and again in Pittsburgh from 1808 to 1815. He was President, Pittsburgh City Council from 1816 to 1819. He was a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1819 to 1820.
Wilkins became a judge of the Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania in 1820, serving until 1824. On May 10, 1824, Wilkins was nominated by President James Monroe to a seat on the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania vacated by Jonathan Hoge Walker. Wilkins was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 12, 1824, and received his commission the same day. He resigned on April 14, 1831, to begin his own term of service in the United States Senate.
Career in national politics
Wilkins was elected to both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate as a Democrat and a Jacksonian. He was a United States Senator from Pennsylvania from 1831 to 1834. In the election of 1832, Wilkins received 30 electoral votes from Pennsylvania for the Vice Presidency (the other 189 votes went to the official party nominee, Martin Van Buren). After returning to private practice in Pittsburgh from 1836 to 1843, he was a U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania from 1843 to 1844. He served as U.S. Secretary of War from 1844 to 1845 under President John Tyler.
In 1845, Willkins returned to the private practice of law in Pittsburgh. He was a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate from 1855 to 1857, and was in private practice of law in Pittsburgh until his death, in 1865. Wilkins died in 1865 in Homewood, near Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pa, and was buried in the Homewood Cemetery there. Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania is named after him. His brother, Ross Wilkins, was a notable jurist in Michigan.