Richard Yates, Governor, U.S. Senator

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Richard Yates

Birthdate: (58)
Birthplace: Warsaw, Gallatin, KY, USA
Death: November 27, 1873 (58)
St Louis, MO, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Henry Yates and Millicent Coleman Yates
Husband of Catherine Yates
Father of Richard Yates, Jr., Governor
Brother of Richard Yates

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About Richard Yates, Governor, U.S. Senator

Richard Yates (January 18, 1815 – November 27, 1873) was the Governor of Illinois during the American Civil War and has been considered the greatest war governor during that period. When the war began Gov. Yates sent more troops to aid the Union than any other state. He also represented Illinois in the United States House of Representatives, 1851–1855 and as a U.S. Senator, 1865–1871.

Yates was born in Warsaw, Kentucky and moved with his family to Illinois in 1831. He studied at Miami University and Georgetown College and graduated from Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, in 1835. He then studied law at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. He was admitted to the bar in 1837 and commenced practice in Jacksonville.

Yates served as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives from 1842–1845 and 1848–1849. In 1850, he was elected as a Whig to the United States House of Representatives where he was the youngest member of the Thirty-second Congress. He was reelected to Congress in 1852. During Yates' second term in Congress, the repeal of the Missouri Compromise reopened the anti-slavery question. He opposed the repeal, and became identified with the new Republican Party. His district was pro-slavery and consequently he narrowly lost his bid for a third term.

In 1860 he was elected governor as a Republican. Governor Yates continued to be an outspoken opponent of slavery, and at the opening of the Civil War was very active in raising volunteers. He convened the legislature in extra session on April 12, 1861, the day after the attack on Fort Sumter, and took military possession of Cairo, garrisoning it with regular troops. In Governor Yates's office General Ulysses S. Grant received his first distinct recognition as a soldier in the Civil War, being appointed by Yates mustering officer for the state, and afterward colonel of the 21st Illinois regiment. In 1862, he attended the Loyal War Governors' Conference in Altoona, Pennsylvania, which ultimately gave Abraham Lincoln support for his Emancipation Proclamation.

During the Civil War Yates benefitted from his relations with Lincoln to bring significant federal financial resources to the State of Illinois and Chicago in particular. Chicago became the location for the largest prisoner of war encampment, Camp Douglas, which had been erected on the former estate of Lincoln's political opponent, the late Justice Stephen A. Douglas (similarly, the estate of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Arlington, Virginia was taken over by the government for use as a military cemetery). During this period Yates enlisted the services of former Chicago Mayor James Hutchinson Woodworth, a Republican with strong anti-slavery views similar to those of Yates, to oversee the disbursement and management of the federal funds received.

After his service as governor ended, Yates was elected as a Republican to the United States Senate and served from March 4, 1865, to March 3, 1871; he was not a candidate for reelection. While in the Senate, Yates was Chairman of the Committee on Revolutionary Claims (Thirty-ninth and Forty-first Congresses) and Chairman of the Committee on Territories (Fortieth Congress).

After leaving the Senate, Yates was appointed by President Grant as a United States commissioner to inspect a land subsidy railroad. He died suddenly in St. Louis, Missouri on November 27, 1873. He is buried in Diamond Grove Cemetery, Jacksonville, Illinois.

In 1923 a statue of Yates by Albin Polasek was erected on the Illinois State Capitol grounds.

His son, also Richard Yates, was also active in Illinois politics, and also became governor of Illinois.

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Richard Yates, Governor, U.S. Senator's Timeline

January 18, 1815
Warsaw, Gallatin, KY, USA
Age 44
Jacksonville, Illinois
November 27, 1873
Age 58
St Louis, MO, USA