William R.D. King, 13th V.P. of the USA

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William Rufus DeVane King

Birthplace: Sampson, NC, USA
Death: Died in Selma, Dallas, AL, USA
Cause of death: Tuberculosis
Place of Burial: Selma, Dallas, AL, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of William Rufus King and Margaret King
Brother of Thomas DeVane King; John DeVane King; Catherine King; Margaret King; Tabitha King and 2 others

Occupation: Senator, Vice President of the United States, US Minister to France, US Representative, 13th Vice President of the United States, Vice President of the U.S.A.
Managed by: Erin Spiceland
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About William R.D. King, 13th V.P. of the USA

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 about six weeks in 1853 before his death. Earlier he had been elected as a U.S. Representative from North Carolina and a Senator from Alabama. He also served as Minister to France. A Democrat, he was a Unionist and his contemporaries considered him to be a moderate on the issues of sectionalism, slavery, and westward expansion that contributed to the American Civil War. He helped draft the Compromise of 1850. He is the only United States executive official to take the oath of office on foreign soil. 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 Alabama and, as such, held the highest political office of any Alabamian in American history.

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 at Chapel Hill in 1803. Admitted to the bar in 1806 after reading the law with an established firm, he began practice in Clinton, North Carolina.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Rufus_Devane_King

William Rufus DeVane King (April 7, 1786 – April 18, 1853) was the 13th Vice President of the United States, and earlier a U.S. Representative from North Carolina, Minister to France, and a Senator from Alabama. 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 remains the shortest-serving Vice President.

Early life:

King was born in Sampson County, North Carolina, to William King and Margaret deVane, and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1803. There, King Residence Quad is named in his honor, and is the site of Mangum House Residence as well as Manly, Ruffin and Grimes Houses. King also maintained membership in The Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies, a debating society at the university which still maintains a portrait of him.

He was admitted to the bar in 1806 and began practice in Clinton, North Carolina. King was a member of the North Carolina House of Commons from 1807 to 1809 and city solicitor of Wilmington, 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. King was Secretary of the Legation at Naples, Italy, and later at St. Petersburg, Russia. He returned to the United States in 1818 and located in Cahawba, Alabama, where he became a slaveholder on a large Black Belt cotton plantation. King and his relatives were some of the largest slaveholding families in Alabama, reportedly owning collectively as many as five hundred slaves.


King was a delegate to the convention which organized the Alabama state government. Upon the admission of Alabama as a State in 1819 he was elected as a Democratic-Republican to the United States Senate, and was reelected as a Jacksonian in 1822, 1828, 1834, and 1841, serving from December 14, 1819, until April 15, 1844, when he resigned. He served as President pro tempore of the United States Senate during the 24th through 27th Congresses. King was Chairman of the Committee on Public Lands and the Committee on Commerce.

He was Minister to France from 1844 to 1846. He was appointed and subsequently elected as a Democrat to the Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Arthur P. Bagby and began serving on July 1, 1848. During the conflicts leading up to the Compromise of 1850, King supported the Senate's gag rule against debate on antislavery petitions, and opposed the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.[1] King supported a conservative proslavery position, arguing that the Constitution protected the institution of slavery in both the Southern states and the federal territories, placing King in opposition to both the abolitionists' efforts to abolish slavery in the territories and the Fire-Eaters' calls for Southern secession.[1]

On July 11, 1850, just two days after the death of President Zachary Taylor, King was again appointed President pro tempore of the Senate, which made him first in the line of succession to the U.S. Presidency, because of the Vice Presidential vacancy. King served until resigning on December 20, 1852, due to poor health. He served as President pro tempore of the Senate during the Thirty-first and Thirty-second Congresses and was Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations and Committee on Pensions.

Vice Presidency and death:

King was elected Vice President of the United States on the Democratic ticket with Franklin Pierce in 1852 and took the oath of office March 24, 1853, in Cuba, where he had gone because of his health. This unusual inauguration took place because it was believed that King, who was terminally ill with tuberculosis, would not live much longer. The privilege of taking the oath on foreign soil was extended by a special act of Congress for his long and distinguished service to the government of the United States. Even though he took the oath 20 days after inauguration day he was still Vice President during those three weeks.

Shortly afterward, King returned to his plantation, King's Bend, across the river from Cahaba, Alabama, and died within two days. He was interred in a vault on the plantation. City officials of Selma and some of King's family wanted to move his body within Selma, where they believed the town's co-founder should be interred. Other family members wanted his body to remain at the family plot. In 1882, the Selma City Council appointed a committee to select a new plot for King's body. There are different versions of how his body was taken from King's Bend, however after 29 years he was re-interred in Live Oak Cemetery, Selma. He is entombed under a granite mausoleum.

Following King's death the office of Vice-President remained vacant until 1857 when John C. Breckinridge was inaugurated. In accordance with the Presidential Succession Act of 1792, the President pro tempore of the Senate was next in order of succession to President Pierce from 1853 to 1857.

Personal relationship with James Buchanan:

King was close friends with James Buchanan, and the two shared a home in Washington, D.C. for fifteen years prior to Buchanan's presidency.[2] Buchanan and King's close relationship prompted Andrew Jackson to refer to King as "Miss Nancy" and "Aunt Fancy", while Aaron V. Brown spoke of the two as "Buchanan and his wife".[3][4] Further, some of the contemporary press also speculated about Buchanan and King's relationship. Buchanan and King's nieces destroyed their uncles' correspondence, leaving some questions as to what relationship the two men had, but surviving letters illustrate the affection of a special friendship, and Buchanan wrote of his communion with his housemate.[3] Buchanan wrote in 1844, after King left for France, "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 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." Such expression, however, was not unusual amongst men at the time. While the circumstances surrounding Buchanan and King have led authors such as Paul Boller to speculate that Buchanan was "America's first homosexual president", there is no direct evidence that he and King had a sexual relationship.[3]


King's tomb is located at the Old Live Oak Cemetery in Selma, Alabama, and is accompanied by a historical marker. He was originally buried on his family estate, however in 1882 the mayor of Selma and two others dug up his casket and moved it to Selma over King family objections. His casket was reburied not just inside a mausoleum, but several feet underneath it.[5]

In honor of his election as Vice President, in December 1852 Oregon Territory named King County for him, as well as Pierce County after President-elect Pierce. These counties became part of Washington Territory when it was created the following year. Washington did not become a state until 1889, and Pierce and King counties still exist.

Much later, King County amended its designation and its logo to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.; the county's action was taken by ordinance and this decision was later reinforced by statutory action by the State of Washington (SB 5332, April 19, 2005).

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William R.D. King, 13th V.P. of the USA's Timeline

April 7, 1786
Sampson, NC, USA
March 4, 1811
- November 4, 1816
Age 24
Washington D.C., United States
December 14, 1819
- April 15, 1844
Age 33
Washington D.C., United States
July 1, 1836
- March 4, 1841
Age 50
Washington D.C., United States
July 1, 1848
- December 20, 1852
Age 62
Washington D.C., United States
May 6, 1850
- December 20, 1852
Age 64
Washington D.C., United States
March 4, 1853
- April 18, 1853
Age 66
Washington D.C., United States
April 18, 1853
Age 67
Selma, Dallas, AL, USA
Selma, Dallas, AL, USA