John DeWitt Clinton Atkins

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John DeWitt Clinton Atkins
John DeWitt Clinton Atkins - Brady-Handy.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 9th district
In office
March 4, 1857 – March 3, 1859
Preceded by Emerson Etheridge
Succeeded by Emerson Etheridge
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 7th district
In office
March 4, 1873 – March 3, 1875
Preceded by Robert P. Caldwell
Succeeded by Washington C. Whitthorne
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 8th district
In office
March 4, 1875 – March 3, 1883
Preceded by David A. Nunn
Succeeded by John M. Taylor
Member of the Tennessee Senate
In office
Personal details
Born (1825-06-04)June 4, 1825
Manly's Chapel, Tennessee
Died June 2, 1908(1908-06-02) (aged 82)
Paris, Tennessee
Political party Democratic

Elizabeth Bacon Porter Atkins

Flora Crawford Atkins
Children John DeWitt Atkins
Alma mater East Tennessee University

lawyer farmer


John DeWitt Clinton Atkins (June 4, 1825 – June 2, 1908) was an American politician and a member of both the United States House of Representatives and Confederate Congress from Tennessee.


Atkins was born at Manly's Chapel, Tennessee, in Henry County the son of John Atkins and Sarah (Manley) Atkins. He attended a private school in Paris, Tennessee, graduated from East Tennessee University at Knoxville in 1846. He studied law, and was admitted to the bar, but he did not practice, instead engaging in agricultural pursuits. He married Elizabeth Bacon Porter on November 23, 1847. After her death in 1887, he married Flora Crawford on June 24, 1890.


Atkins was a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives from 1849 to 1851. He served in the Tennessee Senate from 1855 to 1857. He was elected as a Democrat to the Thirty-fifth Congress by Tennessee's 9th congressional district. He served from March 4, 1857 to March 3, 1859,[1] but he was not a successful candidate for re-election to the Thirty-sixth Congress.

During the Civil War, Atkins served as lieutenant colonel of the Fifth Tennessee Regiment in the Confederate Army in 1861. He was a delegate to the Confederate Provisional Congress in November 1861. He then was elected to the First Confederate Congress and was reelected in 1863 to the Second Confederate Congress.[2]

Following the war, Atkins was elected as a Democrat to the Forty-third and the four succeeding Congresses by Tennessee's 7th congressional district, and then by the 8th congressional district after reapportionment. He served from March 4, 1873 to March 3, 1883.[3] During the Forty-fifth and Forty-sixth Congresses, he was the chairman of the United States House Committee on Appropriations. He was not a candidate for renomination in 1882.

Atkins again engaged in agricultural pursuits near Paris, Tennessee in Henry County. He was appointed United States Commissioner of Indian Affairs by President Cleveland on March 21, 1885, and he served until June 13, 1888 when he resigned. During his tenure as commissioner, Atkins forbade use of Native languages in reservation schools, stating in 1887 that "instruction of the Indians in the vernacular is not only of no use to them, but it is detrimental to the cause of their education and civilization".[4] He was an unsuccessful Democratic nomination for United States Senator in 1888. He returned to agricultural pursuits; retired from active pursuits in 1898, and moved to Paris, Tennessee.


Atkins lived there in retirement until his death on June 2, 1908 (age 82 years, 364 days). He is interred at City Cemetery in Paris, Tennessee.[5] A family friend who developed Atlanta's Atkins Park neighborhood named it in honor of the colonel.[6]


  1. ^ "John DeWitt Clinton Atkins". Govtrack US Congress. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  2. ^ "John DeWitt Clinton Atkins". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  3. ^ "John DeWitt Clinton Atkins". Govtrack US Congress. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Awakening the Languages
  5. ^ "John DeWitt Clinton Atkins". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  6. ^ Atkins Park Neighborhood Association

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Emerson Etheridge
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 9th congressional district

Succeeded by
Emerson Etheridge
Preceded by
Robert P. Caldwell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 7th congressional district

Succeeded by
Washington C. Whitthorne
Preceded by
David A. Nunn
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 8th congressional district

Succeeded by
John M. Taylor
Confederate States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Representative to the Provisional Confederate Congress from Tennessee
Succeeded by