William R. King

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William Rufus DeVane King (April 7, 1786 – April 18, 1853) was the 13th Vice President of the United States for about six weeks, and earlier a U.S. Representative from North Carolina, Minister to France, and a Senator from Alabama. He was a Unionist and his contemporaries considered him to be a moderate on the issues of sectionalism, slavery, and westward expansion that would eventually lead to the American Civil War. He helped draft the Compromise of 1850.[1] The only United States executive official to take the oath of office on foreign soil, King died of tuberculosis after only 45 days in office. With the exceptions of John Tyler and Andrew Johnson—both of whom succeeded to the Presidency—he remains the shortest-serving Vice President.


Early life

King was born in Sampson County, North Carolina, to William King and Margaret deVane, and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1803. He was admitted to the bar in 1806 and began practice in Clinton, North Carolina. King was a member of the North Carolina House of Commons from 1807 to 1809 and city solicitor of Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1810. He was elected to the Twelfth, Thirteenth and Fourteenth Congresses, serving from March 4, 1811 until November 4, 1816, when he resigned. King was Secretary of the Legation to William Pinkney at Naples, Italy, and later at St. Petersburg, Russia. He returned to the United States in 1818 and purchased property at what would later be known as King's Bend on the Alabama River in Dallas County, Alabama, between what is now Selma and Cahaba. There he established a large Black Belt cotton plantation that he named Chestnut Hill. King and his relatives were reportedly one of the largest slave-holding families in Alabama, collectively owning as many as five hundred slaves.

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