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John Jordan Crittenden

Gov. John Jordan Crittenden

  • September 6, 1848 - July 31, 1850
  • Whig
  • September 10, 1786
  • July 26, 1863
  • Kentucky
  • Washington and Lee University; William and Mary College
  • Married three times--Sarah O. Lee, Maria Todd, Elizabeth Ashley; nine children
  • Resigned
  • Representative, Senator, Cabinet secretary
  • National Guard


JOHN J. CRITTENDEN was born near Versailles, Kentucky on September 10, 1786. His education was attained at the Pisgah Academy, Washington and Lee University, and at William and Mary College, where he graduated from in 1806. He studied law, was admitted to the bar, and established a legal career in Woodford County, Kentucky. During the War of 1812, he served as aide to General Sam Hopkins in the 1st Kentucky militia, and also was an aide to Governor Shelby in 1813. Crittenden entered politics in 1809, with an appointment as attorney general of the Illinois Territory, a position he held until 1810. He served as a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1811 to 1817, 1825, and 1829 to 1832, and was a member of the U.S. Senate from 1817 to 1819, 1835 to 1841, and 1842 to 1848. He also served as the U.S. district attorney from 1827 until 1929, when he was dismissed by President Andrew Jackson, and served as the U.S. attorney general from March 1841 to September 1841. In 1828, he was nominated by President John Quincy Adams to serve as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, however, he did not secure senate confirmation. Crittenden won the Whig gubernatorial nomination and was elected governor by a popular vote in 1848. During his tenure, the state penitentiary was refurbished, financial support was sanctioned for improving public education, an extensive state geological survey was established, and a third state constitution was authorized. In 1850, Crittenden resigned from the governorship, to accept an appointment from President Fillmore as U.S. attorney general, a position he held from 1850 to 1853. He served again in the U.S. Senate from 1855 to 1861, and was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1861 to 1863. Governor John J. Crittenden, who authored the Crittenden Compromise in 1860, passed away on July 26, 1863. He was buried at the State Cemetery in Frankfort, Kentucky.


Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

Governors' Papers, Kentucky Department for Libraries & Archives, Public Records Division

Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

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