William Smith

Submitted by Alice Warner

Author: James Grant Wilson and John Fiske

SMITH, William, governor of Virginia, b. in King George county, Va., 6 Sept.,
1796; d. in Warrenton, Va., 18 May, 1887. He was educated at classical schools
in Virginia and Connecticut, began to practise law in Culpeper county, Va., in
1818, and engaged in politics. After serving the Democratic party in a dozen
canvasses as a political speaker, he was chosen state senator in 1830, served
five years, and in 1840 was elected to congress, but was defeated in the next
canvass, his district having become strongly Whig. He then removed to Fauquier
county, where in December, 1845, he was one day addressed as Governor Smith. He
then heard for the first time that, without consulting him, the Virginia
legislature had chosen him governor for the term beginning 1 Jan., 1846. He
removed to California in 1850, was president of the first Democratic convention
that was held in that state, returned to Virginia the same year, and in 1853-'61
was a member of congress, during which service he was chairman of the committee
on the laws of public printing. In June, 1861, he became colonel of the 49th
Virginia infantry, and he was chosen soon afterward to the Confederate congress,
but he resigned in 1863 for active duty in the field. He was promoted
brigadier-general the same year, and severely wounded at Antietam. He was
re-elected governor in 1863, served till the close of the war, and subsequently
sat for one term in the state house of delegates. Although he was never a
student of statesmanship, he was a marvellously adroit politician, and few
members of the Democratic party were furnished with so large a number of
ingenious pleas. As a soldier he was noted, on the contrary, for valor rather
than tactical skill. Throughout his long career he was a familiar figure in many
legislative bodies, and his eccentricities of habit and his humor endeared him
to his constituents. In early manhood he established a line of post-coaches
through Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, on which he contracted to carry
the U. S. mail. His soubriquet of "Extra Billy," which clung to him throughout
his life, grew out of his demands for extra compensation for that service. — His
cousin, William Waugh. educator, b. in Warrenton, Fauquier Co., Va., 12 March,
1845, was educated at the University of Virginia and at Randolph Macón college,
entered the Confederate service at seventeen years of age, fought through the
war in the ranks, twice refusing commissions, and was wounded at the battles of
Fair Oaks and Gettysburg. He was principal of Bethel academy in 1871-'8, when he
became professor of languages in Randolph Macón, held office till 188(i, and
since that time has been president of that college. He has published "Outlines
of Psychology" (New York, 1883), and "Chart of Comparative Syntax of Latin,
Greek, French, German, and English " (1885).

Additional Comments:
Appleton's Cyclopaedia of American Biography

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