Henry Watterson

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Henry Watterson
Henry Watterson - Project Gutenberg etext 18422.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Kentucky's 5th district
In office
August 12, 1876 – March 3, 1877
Preceded by Edward Y. Parsons
Succeeded by Albert S. Willis
Personal details
Born (1840-02-16)February 16, 1840
Washington, D.C.
Died December 22, 1921(1921-12-22) (aged 81)
Jacksonville, Florida
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Rebecca Ewing
Signature Henry Watterson

Henry Watterson (February 16, 1840 – December 22, 1921) was a United States journalist who was the editor for the Louisville Courier-Journal, which was owned and founded by Walter Newman Haldeman. He also served part of one term in the United States House of Representatives as a Democrat.


Born in Washington, D.C., the son of Harvey Magee Watterson, a journalist and Congressman, Watterson became a newspaper reporter early in his life.[1] He fought for the Confederate States of America under General Nathan B. Forrest during the American Civil War, and edited a pro-Confederate newspaper, the Chattanooga Rebel.

After the war, Watterson edited newspapers in several states before settling down in Louisville, Kentucky to edit the Louisville Journal. When that paper merged with the Louisville Courier in 1868, the Courier-Journal was formed. This paper soon gained national attention for its excellent reporting.[citation needed] He was a leader of the Liberal Republican movement in 1872. By 1876 he was a Democrat; his proposal for hundreds of thousands of Democrats to march on Washington to force the election of Tilden angered President Ulysses S. Grant, who noted that nobody threatened Grant. Watterson was elected to fill the rest of Edward Y. Parsons' term in the house when Parsons died in office.

Watterson was called "the last of the great personal journalists", writing colorful and controversial editorials on many topics under the pen name "Marse Henry" which were published in hundreds of American papers as an early exemplar of the syndicated column which played a significant role creating public support for U.S. intervention in the First World War. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1918 for two editorials supporting U.S. entry into World War I, and he remained the editor until 1919, retiring after conflicts with Robert Worth Bingham, who purchased the paper in 1918.

During his tenure as editor, Watterson was a Democratic representative in Congress from 1876 to 1877, and was a five-time delegate to the National Democratic Convention, where, in 1892, he received a smattering of votes for the vice presidential nomination. He became widely known as a lecturer and orator. His publications include History of the Spanish-American War (1899) and The Compromises of Life (1902).


The portion of I-264 from the junction with US 31W to its northeastern terminus at I-71 is known as the Watterson Expressway.

A Jefferson County Public School in eastern Louisville is named Watterson Elementary School.

Enduring quote[edit]

"Things have come to a hell of a pass, when a man can't whip his own jackass." (i.e. Democratic Party)[2]


  1. ^ Federal Writers' Project (1996). The WPA Guide to Kentucky. University Press of Kentucky. p. 104. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Joseph F. Wall (1956) Henry Watterson, Reconstructed Rebel, New York, OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS.
  • Encyclopedia of Kentucky. New York, New York: Somerset Publishers. 1987. pp. 189–192. ISBN 0-403-09981-1. 
  • Daniel S. Margolies. Henry Watterson And the New South: The Politics of Empire, Free Trade, And Globalization (2006)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Edward Y. Parsons
U.S. Congressman, Kentucky 5th District
1876 - 1877
Succeeded by
Albert S. Willis