Orville Hickman Browning
|9th United States Secretary of the Interior|
September 1, 1866 – March 4, 1869
|Preceded by||James Harlan|
|Succeeded by||Jacob Dolson Cox|
|United States Senator|
June 26, 1861 – January 12, 1863
|Appointed by||Richard Yates|
|Preceded by||Stephen A. Douglas|
|Succeeded by||William Richardson|
Orville Hickman Browning
February 10, 1806
Cynthiana, Kentucky, U.S.
|Died||August 10, 1881 (aged 75)|
Quincy, Illinois, U.S.
|Political party||Whig (before 1856)|
|Battles/wars||Black Hawk War|
Orville Hickman Browning (February 10, 1806 – August 10, 1881) was an attorney in Illinois and a politician who was active in the Whig and Republican Parties. He is notable for his service as a U.S. Senator and the United States Secretary of the Interior.
Born in Kentucky, and trained as a lawyer, Browning settled in Illinois, where he served in the militia during the Black Hawk War, established himself as a successful attorney, and became involved in politics as a Whig. He served in the Illinois State Senate and the Illinois House of Representatives, and ran unsuccessfully for the United States House of Representatives. When the Whig Party broke apart in the mid 1850s and the Republican Party was formed as the country's major anti-slavery party, Browning took part in the convention that organized the party in Illinois.
In 1861, Browning was appointed to the United States Senate seat left vacant by the death of Stephen A. Douglas; he served until January 1863, after which he resumed practicing law. After the death of Abraham Lincoln, Browning became a supporter of Andrew Johnson; in 1866, Johnson named Browning as U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and Browning served until the end of Johnson's term in March 1869.
After leaving office, Browning practiced law in Washington, DC and Illinois. He was elected as a Democratic candidate for a delegate's position at the 1869-1870 Illinois constitutional convention. He died in Illinois in 1881.
Browning was born in Cynthiana, Kentucky on February 10, 1806, the son of Sally (Brown) Browning and Micaijah Browning. Sally Brown was the daughter of James Brown, a judge in Bourbon County. Micaijah Browning was a prominent merchant and farmer who also served as a justice of the peace, member of the county court, and presiding county court judge.[a] Orville Browning attended Augusta College in Augusta, Kentucky, studied law with his uncle William Brown, and attained admission to the bar in 1831.
Start of career
After becoming an attorney, Browning moved to Quincy, Illinois, where he established a practice in partnership with Nehemiah Bushnell. During the 1832 Black Hawk War he served in the Illinois Militia. Active in politics as a Whig, he served in the Illinois State Senate from 1836 to 1840, and the Illinois House of Representatives from 1842 to 1844. His military and political careers overlapped Abraham Lincoln's; as a result of their involvement in Whig politics and their shared Kentucky backgrounds, Lincoln and Browning became lifelong friends.
In 1844, Browning successfully defended five men who had been accused of the murder of Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter Day Saint movement. Browning was an unsuccessful candidate for election to Congress in 1843, 1850, and 1852. In May 1856, he was a delegate to the convention in Bloomington, Illinois which was held in opposition to the Kansas–Nebraska Act, one of the events that led to the creation of the Republican Party.
In 1861, Browning was appointed to the United States Senate, filling the vacancy created by the death of Stephen A. Douglas. He did not run for a full term, and served from June 1861 to January 1863. During his time in the Senate Browning served as the chairman of the Committee on Enrolled Bills. He remained in Washington after his term expired, and resumed the practice of law. President Andrew Johnson appointed Browning as Secretary of the Interior in 1866, and he served until the end of Johnson's term in 1869. From March to July, 1868 Browning also served as the interim U.S. Attorney General following the resignation of Henry Stanbery.
After leaving office, he worked as a Washington lobbyist and lawyer in partnership with Edgar Cowan, Thomas Ewing and others. He won election as a Democrat to the Illinois Constitutional Convention of 1869-1870.
Death and burial
Browning's siblings included: Talitha Ann; Amanda; Miranda; Marcus Elliott; Milton Davis; Zelinda Field; Ann Davis; and Elizabeth Brown.
In 1836, Browning married Eliza H. Caldwell, a native of Kentucky. They had no children, but became the parents of a foster daughter whose mother had died. Emma Lord (1848-1885) resided with the Brownings from the age of five; she became the wife of Orrin Skinner, an attorney who practiced in New York and later moved to Chicago. Skinner was later revealed to be a conman, and he was arrested several times for check forgery and other frauds. Skinner died in New York's Auburn Prison in 1896.
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- The county court judges did not hear legal cases, but functioned the way a board of commissioners or a county legislature and executive does in most states.
- Dictionary of American Biography.
- Baxter, Maurice G. (1957). Orville H. Browning, Lincoln's Friend and Critic. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
- Pease, Theodore Calvin; Randall, James G., eds. (1925–1931). The Diary of Orville H. Browning, 1850–1881 (2 vols. ed.). Springfield, Ill.: Illinois State Historical Society.
- United States Congress. "Orville Hickman Browning (id: b000960)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved on 2009-5-13
- Orville Browning at Mr. Lincoln's White House