George Henry Williams

George Henry Williams

Infobox Politician
name = George Henry Williams

order = 32nd
title = United States Attorney General
term_start = December 14 1871
term_end = April 25 1875
predecessor = Amos T. Akerman
successor = Edwards Pierrepont
nominator = Ulysses S. Grant
jr/sr2 = United States Senator
state2 = Oregon
term2 = March 4 1865 – March 3 1871
preceded2 = Benjamin F. Harding
succeeded2 = James K. Kelly
office3 = 3rd Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court
term3 = 1853–1858
preceded3 = Thomas Nelson
succeeded3 = Aaron E. Waite
appointed = Franklin Pierce
birth_date = birth date|1823|3|23|mf=y
birth_place = New Lebanon, New York, U.S.
death_date = death date and age|1910|04|10|1823|03|23
death_place = Portland, Oregon, U.S.
party = Democrat, Republican
spouse = Kate Van Antwerp
Kate Hughes George
profession = Lawyer, Judge, Politician

George Henry Williams (March 23, 1823 – April 10, 1910) was an American judge and politician. He served as Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, was the 32nd Attorney General of the United States, and served one term in the United States Senate. In Oregon he also served in the Oregon Constitutional Convention and served as mayor of the city of Portland.

Early life

Williams was born in New Lebanon, New York, on March 23 1823. [ George Henry Williams] , Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Accessed August 27 2007.] The son of Taber Williams and Lydia Goodrich Williams, George received his regular education before studying law.Corning, Howard M. "Dictionary of Oregon History". Binfords & Mort Publishing, 1956.] After learning the law Williams was admitted to the bar in 1844. He moved to Iowa and worked as a lawyer in Fort Madison, Iowa Territory.


In 1847, George Williams was elected as a judge of the First Judicial District of Iowa where he remained in the position until 1852. That year he was a presidential elector on the Democratic ticket in 1852. President Franklin Pierce appointed Williams as Chief Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court in 1853, with him arriving in Salem of the Oregon Territory in late 1853.


In the early years of the Oregon Supreme Court, the three justices also rode circuit and acted as trial level judges. As a presiding judge while riding circuit, Williams presided over the "Holmes v. Ford" case that freed a slave family since slavery was illegal in the territory.cite web
last = Milner
first = Darrell
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Holmes v. Ford (1853)
work = African American History in the West
publisher = University of Washington
date =
url =
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2007-07-30
] In 1857, he was a member of the Oregon Constitutional Convention held before the establishment of Oregon as a U.S. state. [ [ Oregon Constitutional Convention] ] Williams remained on the court until 1858 when he resigned from the bench. [ Oregon Blue Book: Supreme Court Justices of Oregon] ] He then moved to Portland, Oregon where he resumed the practice of law.

Williams was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Republican from the then state of Oregon in 1865 and served until 1871. After President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, a friend Williams first met in 1847, he served as pall bearer for Lincoln’s funeral.Wood, C.E.S. [ Oregon's Gentle Giant--The Life of George Henry Williams: Senator, Attorney General, and Lawyer.] The Library of Congress. Retrieved on November 22 2007.] While in Congress he served on the joint committee overseeing post-Civil War Reconstruction. In 1871 he was a member of the commission to settle the Alabama claims from the Treaty of Washington. [ Department of Justice biography: George Henry Williams] ]

On December 14, 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him Attorney General of the United States. Williams was nominated to be Chief Justice of the United States in 1873, but he later withdrew from consideration. Prior to withdrawal of consideration, the Senate Judiciary Committee declined to recommend confirmation to the entire Senate. He resigned as Attorney General in 1875, and then declined an offer from Grant to become the U.S. minister to Spain. George Williams campaigned for the election of Rutherford B. Hayes as President in 1876. He then returned to Portland where he established a law practice and served as mayor from 1902 to 1905.

Later life and family

While in Portland he continued to practice law. Williams married Kate Van Antwerp in Iowa in 1850, and they would have a single daughter. He married a second time in 1867 to Kate Hughes George, and they would adopt two children. He died April 4 1910, in Portland and is buried at River View Cemetery in that city.


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