Jacob M. Dickinson

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Jacob McGavock Dickinson
Jacob Dickinson, bw photo portrait standing, 1909.jpg
44th United States Secretary of War
In office
March 12, 1909 – May 21, 1911
President William Howard Taft
Preceded by Luke Edward Wright
Succeeded by Henry L. Stimson
Personal details
Born (1851-01-30)January 30, 1851
Columbus, Mississippi, U.S.
Died December 13, 1928(1928-12-13) (aged 77)
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Martha Overton
Alma mater University of Nashville
Columbia University
Profession Politician
Military service
Allegiance  United States
 Confederate States of America
Service/branch  Confederate States Army
Rank Private
Battles/wars American Civil War

Jacob McGavock Dickinson (January 30, 1851 – December 13, 1928) was United States Secretary of War under President William Howard Taft from 1909 to 1911. He was succeeded by Henry L. Stimson.

Early life[edit]

Jacob McGavock Dickinson was born on January 30, 1851 in Columbus, Mississippi.[1][2] His father, Henry Dickinson, served as a Chancery Judge in Mississippi from 1843 to 1854.[2] His mother was Anne McGavock.[2] His maternal great-grandfather was Felix Grundy.[2]

During the American Civil War of 1861-1865, Dickinson enlisted at fourteen as a private in the Confederate States Army.[1][2] Dickinson moved with his family to Nashville, Tennessee, where he graduated from the University of Nashville in 1871, and received his master's degree in 1872.[1][2] While in college, he was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.[3] He studied law briefly at Columbia Law School and continued his studies abroad in Leipzig and Paris.[1][2] He spoke German.[2] He was admitted to the Tennessee bar in 1874.[1][2]


From 1889 to 1893, Dickinson served as president of the Tennessee Bar Association.[1][2] He served on the Tennessee Supreme Court from 1891 to 1893.[2] He served as Assistant Attorney General of the United States from 1895 to 1897.[2] From 1897 to 1899, he was a Professor of Law at the Vanderbilt University Law School and an attorney for the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.[1][2]

Dickinson moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1899.[2] He became general solicitor for the Illinois Central Railroad, a position he held from 1899 to 1901.[1][2] Dickinson later became general counsel for that railroad, a position he held from 1901 to 1909.[1][2] He was a counsel for the Alaskan Boundary Tribunal in 1903, and was president of the American Bar Association from 1907 to 1908.[1][2] Dickinson helped organize the American Society of International Law, served on its executive council from 1907 to 1910, and was its vice president in 1910.[1][2]

From March 12, 1909 to May 21, 1911, Dickinson served as United States Secretary of War.[1][2] Despite being a Democrat, he was appointed as Secretary of War by Republican President William Howard Taft because the President wanted the South to be represented in his Cabinet.[4] During Dickinson's tenure, he proposed legislation to permit the admission of foreign students to West Point, and recommended an annuity retirement system for civil service employees.[1] He also suggested that Congress consider stopping the pay of soldiers rendered unfit for duty because of venereal disease or alcoholism as a means of combatting those problems.[1]

After his tenure as Secretary of War, Dickinson served as a special assistant attorney general and helped to prosecute U.S. Steel in 1913.[1][2] He also acted in several important labor cases in 1922.[1] He later was receiver of the Rock Island Lines from 1915 to 1917 and was president of the Izaak Walton League from 1927 until 1928.[1][2]

Personal life[edit]

Dickinson's former residence (right) in Washington, D.C.

Dickinson married Martha Overton in 1876.[1][2] They resided at 1808-1810 Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C.. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor


Dickinson died in 1928 in Nashville, Tennessee.[1][2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Bell, William Gardner. Secretaries of War and Secretaries of the Army: Portraits & Biographical Sketches. United States Army. Washington, D. C.: United States Army Center of Military History. p. 106. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Owsley, Harriet Chappell; Waggener, Lexie Jean (Jean B.), eds. (September 1, 1964). "DICKINSON, JACOB McGAVOCK (1858-1921) PAPERS 1812-1946" (PDF). Nashville, Tennessee: Tennessee State Library and Archives. Retrieved September 25, 2015. 
  3. ^ Maxwell, W. J. (1918). General catalogue of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. p. 563. Retrieved January 7, 2016 – via Internet Archive. 
  4. ^ WHY TAFT NAMED DEMOCRAT.; Dickinson Says He Wanted South Really Represented in Cabinet, The New York Times, March 9, 1909

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Luke E. Wright
U.S. Secretary of War
Served under: William Howard Taft

March 12, 1909 – May 21, 1911
Succeeded by
Henry L. Stimson
Business positions
Preceded by
Henry U. Mudge
President of Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad
Succeeded by
James E. Gorman