James Lawrence Orr

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James Lawrence Orr
James Lawrence Orr - Brady-Handy.jpg
22nd Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
In office
December 7, 1857 – March 3, 1859
PresidentJames Buchanan
Preceded byNathaniel Banks
Succeeded byWilliam Pennington
United States Ambassador to Russia
In office
December 12, 1872 – May 5, 1873
PresidentUlysses Grant
Preceded byAndrew Curtin
Succeeded byMarshall Jewell
73rd Governor of South Carolina
In office
November 29, 1865 – July 6, 1868
LieutenantW. D. Porter
Preceded byBenjamin Perry
Succeeded byRobert Scott
Confederate States Senator
from South Carolina
In office
February 18, 1862 – May 10, 1865
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Leader of the House Democratic Caucus
In office
December 7, 1857 – March 3, 1859
Preceded byLinn Boyd
Succeeded byMichael C. Kerr
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina
In office
March 4, 1849 – March 3, 1859
Preceded byRichard F. Simpson (2nd)
Armistead Burt (5th)
Succeeded byWilliam Aiken Jr. (2nd)
John D. Ashmore (5th)
Constituency2nd district (1849–53)
5th district (1853–59)
Chairman of the House Committee on Indian Affairs
In office
March 4, 1853 – March 3, 1855
Preceded byRobert Ward Johnson
Succeeded byBenjamin Pringle
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from Pendleton District
In office
November 25, 1844 – November 27, 1848
Personal details
Born(1822-05-12)May 12, 1822
Craytonville, South Carolina
DiedMay 5, 1873(1873-05-05) (aged 50)
Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materUniversity of Virginia
Military service
Allegiance Confederate States
Branch/service Confederate States Army
Years of service1861–1862
Unit First (Orr's) South Carolina Rifle Regiment
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War

James Lawrence Orr (May 12, 1822 – May 5, 1873) was an American diplomat and politician who served as the 22nd Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1857 to 1859.[1] He also served as the 73rd Governor of South Carolina from 1865 to 1868 after a term in the Confederate States Senate.


Orr was born at Craytonville, South Carolina located in Anderson County, South Carolina. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1841 and became an attorney. He served as a Democratic Congressman from South Carolina from 1849 to 1859, serving as the Speaker of the House from 1857 to 1859. Orr was an advocate of states' rights who used his position to assist those persons who promoted the continuation of slavery. He foresaw the consequences of the decision by South Carolina to attempt to secede from the Union, but he remained loyal to his State. He was one of the three commissioners sent to Washington, D.C. to negotiate the transfer of federal property to South Carolina; the failure of these negotiations led directly to the bombardment of one of the highest-profile federal assets within South Carolina, Fort Sumter.

After Fort Sumter and the outbreak of the American Civil War, Orr organized and commanded Orr's Regiment of South Carolina Rifles, which saw little action before he resigned in 1862 and entered the Confederate Senate, where he served as chairman of the influential Foreign Affairs and Rules committees. The regiment continued to bear his name throughout the war and fought in some of the most prominent battles of the Army of Northern Virginia. In the Confederate Senate, he remained a strong proponent of states' rights.

At the end of the war, Orr was elected governor and served from 1865 until the passage of a new state constitution in 1868. In 1872 President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Orr as Minister to Russia in a gesture of post-Civil War reconciliation. Orr died in St. Petersburg, Russia shortly after arriving to begin his service as Minister. He was interred in the First Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Anderson, South Carolina.

A posthumous portrait of Orr by painter Esther Edmonds is currently part of the collection of the United States Capitol.[2] The portrait was removed from public display in the Speaker's Lobby outside the House Chamber after an order issued by the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi on June 18, 2020.[3][4]


  1. ^ ORR, James Lawrence, (1822 - 1873), bioguide.congress.gov, accessed 4 August 2010
  2. ^ "James Lawrence Orr – US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives". history.house.gov. Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  3. ^ "Portraits of Confederate House Speakers Removed From Capitol". slate.com. Retrieved 19 June 2020.
  4. ^ "Confederate Speaker Portraits To Be Removed From The U.S. Capitol On Juneteenth". www.npr.org. Retrieved 19 June 2020.

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