BENTON MC MILLIN was born in Monroe County, Kentucky. After studying at Kentucky University (later Transylvania University), he read law and was admitted to the Tennessee Bar in 1871, beginning the practice of law that same year in Clay County and later moving to Carthage. He served in the Tennessee House of Representatives from 1874 to 1877. In addition, in 1875 he was appointed by Governor James Porter to negotiate with the state of Kentucky for the purchase of certain lands by Tennessee. In 1877 he was appointed a Special Judge of the 5th Judicial Circuit. And he served in the U.S. House of Representatives for two decades beginning in 1879. Although an unsuccessful candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in 1897, he was nominated for governor by acclamation at the state Democratic Conventions of 1898 and 1900 and won the general elections both years. As governor, McMillin sponsored the creation of a sinking fund that reduced the state’s public debt by about $5 million. He also strongly supported public education and pressed for the enactment of legislation to require a uniform textbook system for the public schools. After leaving office, he ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 1911 and 1913 and for governor in 1912 and 1922. President Woodrow Wilson named him Ambassador to Peru in 1913 and later Minister to Guatemala. He became a Democratic National Committeeman in 1928, and at the age of eighty-seven served as Tennessee’s pre-convention manager for presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. McMillin died at his home in Nashville early the following year.
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Past Governors of Tennessee
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