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  King, William Rufus de Vane
NameWilliam Rufus de Vane King
Cahaba, Alabama , United States
Born April 07, 1786
Died April 18, 1853 (67 years)
ContributorThomas Walker
Last ModifedRBH
Aug 12, 2015 03:39pm
Tags Freemason - Disputed -
InfoWilliam Rufus de Vane King
King was a Representative from North Carolina, a Senator from Alabama, and a Vice President of the United States; born in Sampson County, N.C., April 7, 1786; attended private schools; graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1803; studied law; admitted to the bar in 1806 and commenced practice in Clinton, N.C.; member, State house of commons 1807-1809; city solicitor of Wilmington, N.C., 1810

U.S. House (DR-NC) 1811-1816 (resigned 11/4/1816)

Secretary of the legation at Naples and later at St. Petersburg; returned to the United States in 1818 and located in Cahaba, Ala.; planter; delegate to the convention which organized the State government

U.S. Senate (DR, D-AL) 1819-1844 (resigned); was one of the two initial U.S. Senators from Alabama. Served as President pro tempore of the Senate during the Twenty-fourth through Twenty-seventh Congresses; chairman, Committee on Public Lands (Twenty-second Congress), Committee on Commerce (Twenty-second, Twenty-fifth and Twenty-sixth Congresses). Resigned from office on 4/1/1844

Delegate to the first Democratic National Convention (one of five Alabama delegates), 1832

Minister to France 1844-1846

U.S. Senate (D-AL) 7/1/1848-12/20/1852 (resigned due to poor health); served as President pro tempore of the Senate during the Thirty-first and Thirty-second Congresses; chairman, Committee on Foreign Relations (Thirty-first Congress), Committee on Pensions (Thirty-first Congress)

Elected Vice President of the United States on the Democratic ticket with Franklin Pierce in 1852.

After spending the campaign season of 1852 on his plantation in Alabama, King returned to Washington DC on 12/4/1852 [New York Times, 12/6/1852]. The second session of the 32d Congress assembled on 12/6/1852, and King resumed the chair as President pro tempore of the US Senate. King was suffering from tuberculosis, and his health steadily declined. Unable to fulfill his duties, he resigned from the Senate on 12/20/1852.

Upon the advice of his physician, King travelled to Cuba in the hopes that the warmer climate would aid his recovery. He arrived there on 1/18/1853 and spent his first night at the Hotel Cubano [NYT 1/20/1853]. Thereafter, he recuperated on a sugar estate near Matanzas. The New York Times reported that one element of King's recovery was inhaling the vapor of the boiling sugar cane [NYT 3/2/1853].

Congress assembled in joint session on 2/9/1853 to count the electoral votes. King was declared to be the vice president elect, and George H. Jones was dispatched to inform him of his election. Jones was also authorized to tell King that Congress had passed special legislation allowing him to take the VP oath in Cuba. Jones accomplished his purposes and was delighted to find that King had recovered remarkably. He also discovered that mail from the US to Cuba was being opened and read by the local police prior to delivery [NYT 3/2/1853].

The details surrounding King's oath of office are unclear. The Biographical Directory of the American Congress states that he took his oath on 3/4/1853. Wikipedia states that King took office on 3/24/1853, citing the website of the US Senate. It is clear that King took the oath of office at Matanzas, Cuba. However, a search of contemporary newspapers publicly accessible online could not find a single mention of his taking the oath at all in 1853, which is quite ironic since it was the only VP oath taken off US soil and had a special act of authorization by the US Congress.

One month into his term, King returned to Alabama. He took the steamer Fulton to Mobile, then transferred to a smaller steamer named the Junior which took him into the harbor. A story in the Mobile Register (mentioned in an article in the New York Times on 4/20/1853) reported that King "appeared to be extremely feeble and attenuated, though he bore his head erect, and his eyes glanced around seemingly with a sad, though pleased interest, to find himself once more on the soil of his beloved Alabama." [NYT 4/20/1853]

King returned to his home, Pine Halls, six miles east of Cahawba in Dallas County on 4/17/1853. He died the following day at 6:00 a.m. [NYT 4/20/1853]. Word reached Washington DC on the 20th, and Pres. Pierce issued a proclamation closing all federal offices for the remainder of the day [NYT 4/21/1853]. King's remains were interred in a vault on his plantation; reinterment in Live Oak Cemetery, Selma, Dallas County, Ala.



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