William Alexander Richardson

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For US Treasury Secretary, see William Adams Richardson. For the California entrepreneur, see William A. Richardson.
For other people named William Alexander, see William Alexander (disambiguation).
William Alexander Richardson
William Alexander Richardson - Brady-Handy.jpg
United States Senator
from Illinois
In office
January 12, 1863 – March 3, 1865
Preceded by Orville H. Browning
Succeeded by Richard Yates
5th Governor of Nebraska Territory
In office
January 12, 1858 – December 5, 1858
President James Buchanan
Preceded by Thomas B. Cuming
Succeeded by Julius Sterling Morton
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 5th district
In office
March 4, 1861 – January 12, 1863
Preceded by Isaac N. Morris
Succeeded by Owen Lovejoy
In office
December 6, 1847 – August 25, 1856
Preceded by Stephen A. Douglas
Succeeded by Jacob C. Davis
12th Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives
In office
December 5, 1842 – December 2, 1844
Preceded by Samuel Hackleton
Succeeded by Newton Cloud
Member of the Illinois Senate
In office
Member of the Illinois House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born (1811-01-16)January 16, 1811
Lexington, Kentucky, US
Died December 27, 1875(1875-12-27) (aged 64)
Quincy, Illinois, US
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Centre College
Transylvania University
Profession Politician, Lawyer
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Rank Major
Battles/wars Mexican-American War

William Alexander Richardson (January 16, 1811 – December 27, 1875) was a prominent Illinois Democratic politician before and during the American Civil War.

Born near Lexington, Kentucky, Richardson attended Transylvania University, and then proceeded to teach school and study law. He passed the bar exam in 1831 and started his practice in Shelbyville, Illinois. He was an attorney for the state from 1834 to 1835, and was elected representative to the state house, serving from 1836 to 1838. He moved over to the state senate from 1838 to 1842, and then back to the house again from 1844 to 1846, briefly serving as speaker of the lower house during his last term. He was a presidential elector in 1844 for the Democrats.

Richardson enlisted as a captain in the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War, and was promoted to the rank of major. After the war, he moved to Quincy, Illinois, and then was elected to the 30th Congress to fill Stephen A. Douglas's seat. He was then reelected to the 31st, 32nd, 33rd, and 34th Congresses for the same seat (1847 to 1856).

During his time in the House of Representatives, he was the Chairman of the Committee on Territories (32nd-33rd Congresses). He resigned in August 1856 to run for Governor of Illinois. He narrowly lost to fellow representative, and first nominee of the newly established Republican Party William H. Bissell. Richardson took most of south Illinois while Bissell won most of north Illinois, and a couple of counties in the southern part of the state. Bissell won by 4,697 votes (slightly less than 2% of the vote).[1]

After being defeated, Richardson was appointed by President Buchanan as the Governor of the Nebraska Territory for most of 1858. Richarson resigned near the end of the year.

He was a delegate to 1860 Democratic National Convention from Illinois. He then came back to Washington D.C. as a member of the 37th Congress in 1861. In 1863, he was elected to fill Stephen Douglas's old seat in the United States Senate, defeating incumbent Republican Orville Browning. He was not renominated in 1865 and spent the rest of his life engaged in newspaper work.

He died on December 27, 1875 in Quincy, Illinois, where he is buried.

Richardson County, Nebraska is named after him.


  1. "The Political Graveyard". Richardson, William Alexander. Retrieved January 10, 2006. 
  2. "Congressional Bioguide". Richardson, William Alexander. Retrieved January 10, 2006. 

This article incorporates facts obtained from: Lawrence Kestenbaum, The Political Graveyard 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Stephen A. Douglas
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
Jacob C. Davis
Political offices
Preceded by
Mark W. Izard
Territorial Governor
Thomas B. Cuming
Acting Territorial Governor
Territorial Governor of Nebraska
January 12, 1858 – December 5, 1858
Succeeded by
J. Sterling Morton
Acting Territorial Governor
Samuel W. Black
Territorial Governor
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Isaac N. Morris
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
Owen Lovejoy
United States Senate
Preceded by
Orville H. Browning
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Illinois
January 12, 1863 – March 3, 1865
Served alongside: Lyman Trumbull
Succeeded by
Richard Yates