Walter Lenox (1817–1874) was Mayor of Washington, D.C. for one two-year term, from 1850 to 1852. Lenox was the first mayor to be born in the city of Washington, graduating from Yale in 1837 and returning to the capital to practice law in the early 1840s. During at least part of that period, he lived with future Washington mayor Richard Wallach.
Lenox served on the Washington city council (the lower of its two legislative chambers) from 1842 to 1843, then as an Alderman from 1843 to 1849, serving his last term as President of the Board of Aldermen. Thus when mayor William Winston Seaton declined to run for a sixth term in 1850, Lenox was the heir apparent — although because of his young age (only 33), he was dismissed by many residents of the city, particularly when the popular former mayor Roger C. Weightman announced his intention to seek the office again. Ultimately, Lenox won the election by 32 votes.
Lenox's term as mayor was of little note; his most prominent accomplishments were his presiding at the laying of the cornerstone of the extension to the U.S. Capitol, service on the Washington Monument Association, and proclamation of an official day of mourning for the deceased President Zachary Taylor. The records of the Columbia Historical Society also note that he was "deeply concerned with the education of the youth. He gave greater attention to the public school question than any other."
Lenox was a Whig, which became a liability in the mayoral election of 1852 (the year in which the Whig Party collapsed). His Democratic opponent, John Walker Maury, defeated Lenox by almost 900 votes.
After his mayoralty, Lenox married but became a widower after only eighteen months. He enlisted with the Confederate Army when the Civil War erupted, and upon returning to Washington in 1863 to settle the estate of a deceased relative, spoke openly in contempt of the Union and was arrested and imprisoned by his old friend, General Winfield Scott. Prison at Fort McHenry shattered Lenox's health, and he died in 1874 at the age of 57. He was interred at Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington.
William Winston Seaton
|Mayor of Washington, D.C.
John Walker Maury