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Richard James Oglesby

Gov. Richard James Oglesby

  • January 16, 1865 - January 11, 1869
    January 13, 1873 - January 23, 1873
    January 30, 1885 - January 14, 1889
  • Republican
  • July 25, 1824
  • April 24, 1899
  • Kentucky
  • Louisville Law School
  • Married twice--Anna White, Emma Keys; seven children
  • Resigned
  • Senator
  • Army


RICHARD JAMES OGLESBY, Illinois’ 14th, 16th, and 20th governor was born in Floydsburg, Kentucky, on July 25, 1824. After being orphaned at an early age, Oglesby moved with his uncle to Decatur, Illinois. His early education was limited and attained in the common schools of Illinois. He graduated from the Louisville Law School in 1848, was admitted to the bar in 1854, and established a law career in Sullivan, Illinois. Oglesby volunteered during the Mexican War, serving as first lieutenant of Company C, Fourth Illinois Infantry, and commanding troops in the Vera Cruz and Cerro Gordo battles. During the Civil War, he served as colonel of the Eighth Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, was wounded in the battle of Corinth, and rose to the rank of major general when he was discharged in May 1864. Oglesby entered politics in 1860, as a one-term member of the Illinois State Senate. He won election as Illinois governor on November 8, 1864 and was sworn into office on January 16, 1865. During his first term, a state board of equalization was instituted; the 13th and 14th Amendments were sanctioned; the Southern Illinois Penitentiary was built; the “black laws” were annulled; and a school for the mentally handicapped and an orphaned children’s home were created. After finishing out his first gubernatorial term on January 11, 1869, Oglesby returned to the private sector, reestablishing his law career. He elected to a second term as governor on November 5, 1872 and was sworn into office on January 13, 1873. However, 10 days after his inauguration, he resigned from the governorship, to take a seat in the U.S. Senate. He served in the senate from March 4, 1873, to March 3, 1879. Oglesby was elected to a third term as Illinois governor on November 4, 1884. During his final term as governor, a juvenile delinquents’ home and a home for sailors and soldiers were founded; several different pension funds were initiated; the citizens’ election bill was enacted; and a revenue commission was established. He retired from politics after finishing his term on January 14, 1889. Governor Richard J. Oglesby died on April 24, 1899 and was buried in the Elkhart Cemetery.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

 Illinois History


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