David M. Key
|David McKendree Key|
|27th United States Postmaster General|
March 12, 1877 – June 2, 1880
|Preceded by||James N. Tyner|
|Succeeded by||Horace Maynard|
|United States Senator
August 18, 1875 – January 19, 1877
|Preceded by||Andrew Johnson|
|Succeeded by||James E. Bailey|
January 27, 1824|
Greeneville, Tennessee, U.S.
|Died||February 3, 1900
Chattanooga, Tennessee, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Elizabeth Lenoir Key|
|Alma mater||Hiwassee College|
|Allegiance||Confederate States of America|
|Service/branch||Confederate States Army|
|Unit||43rd Tennessee Regiment|
|Battles/wars||American Civil War|
David McKendree Key (January 27, 1824 – February 3, 1900) was a Democratic U.S. Senator from Tennessee from 1875 to 1877 as well as the U.S. Postmaster General under President Hayes, and a United States federal judge.
Key was born in Greene County, Tennessee, the son of Reverend John and Margaret (Armitage) Key. In 1826 the family moved to Monroe County where Key was reared, graduating from Hiwassee College in 1850. He selected the legal profession as his vocation through life, and the same year of his graduation he read law to be admitted to the bar. He practiced law for two years at Madisonville, then worked for a short time in Kingston. He moved to Chattanooga in February 1853. He married Elizabeth Lenoir in 1857, and fathered nine children.
When the Civil War broke out, Key enlisted in the Forty-third Confederate Tennessee Regiment of Infantry, served until the close of the war, and was mustered out as a lieutenant colonel. He then resumed the practice of law in Chattanooga until 1868.
Key was a member of the Tennessee state constitutional convention of 1870, which composed the basic instrument of government of the state still in effect, and in August of the same year was elected chancellor of the Chattanooga (3rd) division. He maintained his chancellorship during an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. House in 1872, but resigned in 1875 to accept the appointment by Tennessee Governor James D. Porter to the vacant Senate seat created by the death of Andrew Johnson.
Defeated in the next senate election in the Tennessee General Assembly, Key was appointed Postmaster General in 1877 by President Hayes, and served until August 25, 1880. His appointment as Postmaster General was part of the Compromise of 1877, implemented to ensure there was Democratic power in the Republican cabinet. Key's work as Postmaster General is harshly criticized by Mark Twain in The Autobiography of Mark Twain.
On May 19, 1880, Key was nominated by President Hayes to a joint seat on the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, vacated by Connally F. Trigg. Key was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 27, 1880, and received his commission the same day. Key retired from the bench on January 21, 1895. He died in Chattanooga in 1900 and is buried there.
- David M. Key at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress Retrieved on 2008-02-13
- David M. Key at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
- Goodspeed Publishing, History of East Tennessee, Hamilton County. (1887)
- Dictionary of American Biography
- Abshire, David. The South Rejects a Prophet: The Life of David Key. New York: F.A. Praeger, 1967.
- Murrin, John M. Liberty, Equality, Power. Fourth Edition. Australia: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005.
James N. Tyner
|United States Postmaster General
Served under: Rutherford B. Hayes
1877 – 1880
|United States Senate|
|Senator from Tennessee (Class 1)
Served alongside: Henry Cooper
James E. Bailey