William L. Sharkey

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William L. Sharkey

William Lewis Sharkey (July 12, 1798– March 30, 1873) was an American judge of Scotch Irish extraction and politician from Mississippi.

He was born in Sumner County, Tennessee, where he and his family lived until they moved to Warren County, Mississippi, when he was six years of age. In 1822, he was accepted into the bar at Natchez. Three years later he moved to Vicksburg and after a few years was elected for a single term to the state House of Representatives (1828–1829). He served briefly in 1832 as a circuit court judge before being elected a justice to the state supreme court later that year where he remained for 18 years until his resignation. Sharkey was appointed to the office of Secretary of War by U.S. President Millard Fillmore in 1851, but declined.

He was a member of the Whig Party and was strongly opposed to the secession of Mississippi in 1861. Throughout the American Civil War he remained a staunch Unionist and, according to one source, was "tolerated by his Confederate neighbors only because of his towering reputation as a jurist." Governor Charles Clark appointed him in 1865 as a commissioner (along with William Yeager) to confer on behalf of the state with President Andrew Johnson. On June 13, 1865, Johnson appointed Sharkey to be provisional governor,[1] leaving office with the election of Benjamin G. Humphreys in October. He was elected Senator in 1865 but was denied his seat by the United States Congress. Sharkey died in Washington, D.C. in 1873. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Jackson, Mississippi.

Sharkey County, Mississippi is named after him.


  1. ^ Presidential Proclamation No. 39, 13 June 1865, 13 Stat. 761, 762

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Political offices
Preceded by
Charles Clark (governor)
Governor of Mississippi
Succeeded by
Benjamin G. Humphreys