John Walker Maury

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John Walker Maury
15th Mayor of Washington D.C.
In office
Preceded byWalter Lenox
Succeeded byJohn T. Towers
Personal details
Caroline County, Virginia
Resting placeCongressional Cemetery
Washington D.C.
RelativesJames Maury
James Maury (consul)
Matthew Fontaine Maury

John Walker Maury (1809–1855) was an American municipal politician and Democrat. He served as the fifteenth mayor of the City of Washington for one two-year term, from 1852 to 1854.[1]

Early life[edit]

John Walker Maury was born in Caroline County, Virginia in 1809 to a prominent Virginia family. His great-grandfather, Reverend James Maury, had founded the Maury Classical School for Boys at which Thomas Jefferson was his student for two years. His grandfather, Walker Maury, was headmaster of a school in Williamsburg; his great-uncle, "Consul" James Maury, was the United States' first consul to Liverpool, England, appointed by George Washington; and his second cousin, Matthew Fontaine Maury, was a famous and accomplished oceanographer.[2]

He moved at 17 to the City of Washington (as Washington, D.C. was then called), where he established a law practice. He married five years later, in 1831, to Isabel Foyles, eventually producing 15 children.[3]

Political career[edit]

At the age of 26, John Walker Maury was elected to the Common Council of Washington City, serving for five years until declining to run again in 1840. However, one year afterward he was elected to the Board of Aldermen. After eleven years as an alderman, Maury was elected as Mayor in 1852.[4]

As mayor, Maury was associated with three main efforts during his term of office.[5] First, he and the philanthropist William Wilson Corcoran convinced Congress to appropriate funds for the Government Hospital for the Insane, now known as St. Elizabeths. Second, he was mayor when Congress funded a study under the supervision of Montgomery C. Meigs to improve the public water supply by means of the Washington Aqueduct.[6] Third, Maury provided payments to sculptor Clark Mills to complete the statue of Andrew Jackson on horseback that stands in Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House. Mills later repaid Maury from a commission for an equestrian statue of George Washington.[7]

Despite these contributions, Maury merits only a passing and dismissive mention in Constance McLaughlin Green's Pulitzer Prize-winning work, Washington, Village and Capital, 1800-1878, in which she writes that "the gentle John Maury was beloved as a man but was a singularly inept politician.”[8] In 1854, at the peak of the Know-Nothing movement in American politics, Maury was unseated by Know-Nothing candidate John T. Towers. Maury died one year later, shortly before his 46th birthday.

Like some other early mayors of the City of Washington, such Robert Brent and Benjamin G. Orr, Maury owned slaves.[9][10] In the United States Census of 1840, Maury reported five slaves including a boy and a girl under 10 years old.[11] In 1850, Maury reported a 23 year old female.[12] In 1862, Maury's widow Isabel filed a petition under the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act seeking compensation for six slaves who were emancipated under the Act. According to her petition, the slaves had been willed to her by her late husband. The enslaved were Eliza Dyson and her five children, ages 4 to 15.[13]

At the time of his death in 1855, Maury was president of the National Bank of the Metropolis, a position he had assumed after the death of John P. Van Ness in 1846.[14] Maury was interred at Congressional Cemetery in Washington. His son William Arden Maury would recall that "There was, perhaps, never a greater outpouring of the people from President Pierce and the venerable Senator Benton down to the humblest citizen than was seen at his funeral." [15]

Maury Elementary, one of the District of Columbia Public Schools, was named in honor of John Walker Maury upon its construction in 1886.[16][17][18]


  1. ^ Bryan, Wilhelmus Bogart (1916). A History of the National Capital from Its Foundation Through the Period of the Adoption of the Organic Act, Volume 2: 1815-1878. New York: The Macmillan Company. p. 404. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  2. ^ "The Maury Family". Library of Congress. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  3. ^ "The First Mayors of Washington, D.C." (PDF). Congressional Cemetery. Archived 2007-07-04 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Bryan, Wilhelmus Bogart (1898). Various Forms of Local Government in the District of Columbia: Sketch of the Various Forms of Local Government in the District of Columbia, with List of Washington City Officials Appended. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. pp. 24–28. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  5. ^ "What's In A Name: Profiles of the Trailblazers History and Heritage of District of Columbia Public and Public Charter Schools" (PDF). Humanities DC. HumanitiesDC. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  6. ^ Chick, H.M. (1934). History and construction of the aqueduct leading to McMillan Park, Washington, D.C. (Thesis). College Park, MD: University of Maryland. ARCV 72-115.41. Records of Phi Mu, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.
  7. ^ Maury, William A. (1916). "John Walker Maury, His Lineage and Life". Records of the Columbia Historical Society. 19: 169. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  8. ^ Green, Constance McLaughlin (1962). Washington, Village and Capital: 1800-1878. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 208. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  9. ^ "Who DC's Schools are Named For". Nothing More Powerful. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  10. ^ Cranor, David. "DC has over 200 public schools named for people. Here's how they got their names". Greater Greater Washington. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  11. ^ "John W Maury", United States Census, 1840; Washington city, Washington, District of Columbia, United States; roll 35, page 99-100, line 3, Family History film 6,700, National Archives film number M704. Retrieved on 5 December 2018.
  12. ^ "John W Maury", United States Census, 1850; Washington city, Washington, District of Columbia, United States; line 2, Family History film 6,703, National Archives film number M432. Retrieved on 5 December 2018.
  13. ^ "Petition of Isabel Maury, 1 July 1862". Civil War Washington. Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  14. ^ Maury, William A. (1916). "John Walker Maury, His Lineage and Life". Records of the Columbia Historical Society. 19: 166. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  15. ^ Maury, William A. (1916). "John Walker Maury, His Lineage and Life". Records of the Columbia Historical Society. 19: 169. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  16. ^ "About". Maury Elementary School. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  17. ^ Krepp, Tim. "How The Schools of Capitol Hill Got Their Name: Maury Elementary". The Hill Is Home. Retrieved 1 December 2018.
  18. ^ "Annual Report of the Commissioners of the District of Columbia for the year ended June 30, 1887". Executive Documents of the House of Representatives, for the First Session of the Fiftieth Congress, 1887-1888 in Thirty-Two Volumes. 6: 153. 1889. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
Political offices
Preceded by
Walter Lenox
Mayor of Washington, D.C.
Succeeded by
John T. Towers