JAMES LAWRENCE ORR was born in Craytonville, Pendleton District, South Carolina. He entered the University of Virginia in 1839, studied law, and was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1843. In addition to practicing law in Anderson, South Carolina he was editor of the Anderson Gazette for several years. He was a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1844 to 1848, the U.S. House of Representatives from 1849 to 1859 (Speaker in 1857 and 1858), the 1851 Southern Rights Convention, the South Carolina delegation to the Democratic National Conventions of 1856 and 1860, and the South Carolina Secession Convention of 1860. During the Civil War he organized Orr’s Regiment of Rifles for the Confederate Army. He went on to become a member of the Confederate States Provisional Congress in 1861 and served in the Confederate States Senate from 1861 to 1865. A member of the South Carolina Constitutional Convention, he was elected governor after the constitution was adopted–the first governor of the state to be elected by popular vote. Despite his efforts toward moderation with respect to the South Carolina legislature’s enactment of “black codes” [post-Civil War laws that were designed to restrict the civil rights of African-Americans and require them to work–largely as laborers–or face arrest for vagrancy], South Carolina;s newly-elected U.S. Representatives and Senators were denied their seats by the Radical Republicans and the state was placed under military control. After the adoption of a new state constitution, Orr’s replacement as governor was elected. Orr went on to become Judge of the Eighth South Carolina Judicial Circuit from 1868 to 1870 and was a member of the Republican State and National Conventions of 1872. He was appointed U.S. Minister to Russia in December, 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant and died in St. Petersburg, Russia just five months later.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 12. New York: James T. White & Company.