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James D. Porter

James Davis Porter
Portrait of Porter by Washington B. Cooper
20th Governor of Tennessee
In office
January 18, 1875 – February 16, 1879
Preceded by John C. Brown
Succeeded by Albert S. Marks
United States Assistant Secretary of State
In office
March 20, 1885 – September 17, 1887
President Grover Cleveland
Preceded by John Davis
Succeeded by George L. Rives
United States Minister to Chile
In office
July 4, 1893 – March 14, 1894
President Grover Cleveland
Preceded by Patrick Egan
Succeeded by Edward H. Strobel
Personal details
Born (1828-12-07)December 7, 1828
Paris, Tennessee
Died May 18, 1912(1912-05-18) (aged 83)
Paris, Tennessee
Resting place Paris City Cemetery
Paris, Tennessee[1]
Political party Whig Party
Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Susannah Dunlap (m. 1851)
Profession Attorney, educator
Military service
Allegiance Confederate States of America
Service/branch  Confederate States Army
Years of service 1861–1865
Rank Lieutenant colonel
Battles/wars American Civil War
 • Belmont (1861)
 • Shiloh (1862)
 • Chickamauga (1863)
 • Missionary Ridge (1863)
 • Atlanta Campaign (1864)
 • Nashville (1864)

James Davis Porter (December 7, 1828 – May 18, 1912) was an American politician, educator, and soldier. He served as

Political offices
Preceded by
John C. Brown
Governor of Tennessee
Succeeded by
Albert S. Marks
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Patrick Egan
United States Minister to Chile
4 July 1893 – 14 March 1894
Succeeded by
Edward H. Strobel
  • Confederate Military History Volume VIII: Tennessee – Porter's book on the Civil War in Tennessee

External links

  1. ^ a b James D. Porter at Find a Grave
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Christopher Losson, "James Davis Porter," Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, 2009. Retrieved: 1 November 2012.
  3. ^ a b Finding Aid for Governor James D. Porter Papers, Tennessee State Library and Archives, 1964. Retrieved: 1 November 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d Rossiter Johnson, The Twentieth Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans, Vol. VIII (Boston: The Biographical Society, 1904).
  5. ^ a b Presidents of Peabody College: James Davis Porter, Jean and Alexander Heard Library Special Collections and University Archives, 12 September 2012. Originally published in The Peabody Record, October 1901. Retrieved: 1 November 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Phillip Langsdon, Tennessee: A Political History (Franklin, Tenn.: Hillsboro Press, 2000), pp. 198-203.
  7. ^ Lewis Laska, William F. Yardley, Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, 2009. Retrieved: 1 November 2012.
  8. ^ a b John Benhart, Appalachian Aspirations: The Geography of Urbanization and Development in the Upper Tennessee River Valley, 1865-1900 (Knoxville, Tenn.: University of Tennessee Press, 2007), p. 31.


Porter married Susannah Dunlap, the daughter of his law mentor, John Dunlap, in 1851. They had six children, three of whom died at a young age.[6]


Porter died at his home in Paris in 1912, and is buried in the Paris City Cemetery.[1]

In 1899, Porter published a book, The Military History of Tennessee, War of 1861-65, which became Volume VIII of Clement Evans's 12-volume series, Confederate Military History. He was also active in the Tennessee Historical Society, at one point serving as its president.[2]

[2] He resigned from the fund's board in 1909.[2] Porter spent the latter part of his life promoting and raising funds for his alma mater, the University of Nashville (from which he had been granted an honorary

In 1885, Porter was appointed Assistant Secretary of State by President Grover Cleveland. He served under Secretary of State Thomas F. Bayard. In 1893, during Cleveland's second term, Porter was appointed U.S. Minister to Chile.[2] He remained at this post until the Spring of 1894.

In his book Appalachian Aspirations, Professor John Benhart describes Porter (and ex-Governor John C. Brown) as "typical of the New South Conservatives who dominated Tennessee politics during the two decades following Reconstruction, mixing the mores of the Old South with a recognition that industrial capitalism was the wave of the future."[8] Following his tenure as governor, Porter remained active in the New South economy. He served as president of the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway from 1880 to 1884,[2] and also served on the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company.[8]

Porter, photographed later in life

Later endeavors

Porter was a strong supporter of public education. While he was governor, the South's first medical school for African Americans, Meharry Medical College, was founded in Nashville. When the Peabody Fund announced it was going to establish a school for teachers in Nashville, Porter used his influence to have the school attached to the University of Nashville.[6] Porter also signed the so-called "Four Mile Law," an early, backdoor form of Prohibition that forbade alcoholic beverages within four miles (6.4 km) of any school.[6] Given the small size of most of the schools of the era and their resultant presence in almost every community, even many of the smallest ones, this effectively outlawed alcohol in all but the least-populated areas of the state.

Like his predecessor, John C. Brown, Porter spent much of his gubernatorial tenure managing the state's out-of-control debt. After the state defaulted on its bonded debt in 1875, Porter continued to argue that the state should pay off the bonds in full to protect its credit. The Panic of 1873 had great reduced tax revenues, however, and full repayment proved unfeasible. His successors sought only a partial repayment.[6]

Porter received the Democratic nomination for governor in 1874, and easily defeated his Republican opponent, Horace Maynard, by a 105,061 to 55,847 vote later that year.[6] In 1876, he was reelected by a similarly lopsided margin over several candidates, among them moderate Democrat Dorsey B. Thomas and Republican William F. Yardley, the latter being the state's first African-American candidate for governor.[6][7]


After the war, Porter returned to his law practice in Paris. In 1870, he was a delegate to the state's constitutional convention, which wrote the current Tennessee State Constitution, and served on the convention's judiciary committee.[5] Following the convention, he was elected judge of the state's 12th circuit.[3] Originally a Whig, he aligned himself with the Democratic Party after the Civil War.[6]

[5].Siege of Atlanta, and the Missionary Ridge, Chickamauga, Shiloh, Belmont. As Cheatham's chief of staff, Porter took part in the battles of Benjamin F. Cheatham After this army was attached to the greater Confederate Army, Porter was assigned to General [4] Porter initially served as an

Porter was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1859. In 1861, he introduced the "Porter resolutions," which were eventually adopted. These resolutions stipulated that in the event of war between seceding states and the Union, Tennessee would align itself with the seceding states.[4] In early May 1861, following the Battle of Fort Sumter, these measures were enacted, and Tennessee signed a military pact with the Confederacy.

Porter was born in Paris, Tennessee, the son of Dr. Thomas Kennedy Porter and Geraldine Horton Porter.[3] He attended the University of Nashville, where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in 1846, and a Master of Arts in 1849.[4] He studied law under Paris attorney John Dunlap (his future father-in-law), and was admitted to the bar in 1851.

Early life and the Civil War


  • Early life and the Civil War 1
  • Governor 2
  • Later endeavors 3
  • Family 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Porter spent his later years as chancellor of his alma mater, the University of Nashville, and as president of Peabody College, which was established at the University of Nashville during his gubernatorial administration. He oversaw the liquidation and transfer of the University of Nashville's assets to the Peabody Education Fund, which allowed Peabody College to be reestablished near Vanderbilt University in 1909.[2]


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