Henry T. Backus

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Henry T. Backus
Associate Justice, Arizona Territorial Supreme Court
In office
March 6, 1865 – March 1869
Nominated by Abraham Lincoln
Preceded by William T. Howell
Succeeded by John Titus
15th Lieutenant Governor of Michigan
In office
Governor Austin Blair
Preceded by Joseph R. Williams
Succeeded by Charles S. May
Personal details
Born (1809-04-09)April 9, 1809
Norwich, Connecticut
Died July 13, 1877(1877-07-13) (aged 68)
Greenwood, Arizona
Political party Whig/Republican
Spouse(s) Juliana Trumball Woodbridge

Henry Titus Backus (April 4, 1809 – July 13, 1877) was a politician from the U. S. state of Michigan and judge from the Arizona Territory.

Early life[edit]

Backus was born in Norwich, Connecticut to James and Dorothy Backus. He attended schools in Norwich and the academy in Plainfield. In Norwich, he worked in a crockery store and studied law with Judge Calvin Goddard. He later attended Yale Law School and was admitted to the bar in February 1833. The following year he moved to Detroit and practiced law with future Governor of Michigan William Woodbridge and later became senior partner in the law firm, Backus and Harbough. On December 7, 1835, he married Woodbridge’s daughter, Juliana Trumball Woodbridge.


Backus served as a Whig in the Michigan House of Representatives in 1840 and was a member of the state constitutional convention of 1850. He was Grand Master of Masons in Michigan from 1851 to 1853 and served as alderman from the 9th ward of Detroit from 1860 to 1861.

In 1860, Backus was elected as a Republican to the Michigan Senate and chosen as president pro tempore of the state senate after Joseph R. Williams took on the duties as the Lieutenant Governor of Michigan. After the death of Williams a couple months later on June 15, 1861, Backus took on the duties as the 15th Lieutenant Governor under Austin Blair until January 1863.

Judicial career[edit]

On March 10, 1865, Backus was nominated by U. S. President Abraham Lincoln to the Territorial Supreme Court of Arizona to replace William T. Howell. The U. S. Senate confirmed the nomination on the following day and Backus took the oath of office on April 20. He left for Arizona that fall on held a term of Court at Tucson in January 1866.

Backus rendered a decision that the Governor of Arizona had no authority under the Arizona Organic Act to apportion the members of the territorial legislature. As a result, all the laws enacted by the 3rd, 4th and 5th legislatures were void. The U.S. Congress passed an act to legalize those laws which had been voided from 1866 to 1868. The act was approved on March 25, 1870.

Retirement and death[edit]

Backus resigned in 1869 and returned to Detroit to practice law. In 1877, he returned to the Arizona Territory to look after some land he had acquired there. On July 12 he became ill while traveling to Greenwood with Judge Charles T. Hayden of Tempe. The following day he died at the age of sixty-eight on the Big Sandy River in Mohave County. He was originally interred at Greenwood, which is now a ghost town,[1] and was later re-interred on August 7, 1885, in the Yantic Cemetery near Norwich, Connecticut.

References and notes[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph R. Williams
Lieutenant Governor of Michigan
Succeeded by
Charles S. May