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Richard Yates Sr.

Gov. Richard Yates Sr.

  • January 13, 1861 - January 15, 1865
  • Republican
  • January 17, 1818
  • November 26, 1873
  • Kentucky
  • Illinois College, Transylvania University
  • Married Catharine Geers; five children
  • Representative, Senator


RICHARD YATES, Illinois’ 13th governor was born in Warsaw, Kentucky, on January 18, 1818. After moving to Illinois in 1831, Yates attended and graduated from Illinois College in 1835. He then studied law at Transylvania University in Kentucky, was admitted to the bar in 1837, and established a successful legal career in Jacksonville, Illinois. Yates entered politics as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, a position he held from 1842 to 1845 and from 1848 to 1849. He also served as a member of the U. S. House of Representatives from March 4, 1851, to March 3, 1855, and he was a delegate to the 1854 Illinois Republican Convention and to the 1860 Republican National Convention. Yates won election as Illinois governor on November 6, 1860, and was sworn into office on January 14, 1861. During his tenure, he concentrated on military efforts and issues that resulted from the Civil War. Yates, who was an ardent supporter of Abraham Lincoln, answered the President’s call for troops with a massive number of soldiers – nearly 200,000 enlisted. During his term, Governor Yates faced a Fulton County riot; the usurping of the State Constitutional Convention of 1862; military arrests; and an effort to stifle the publication of the Chicago Times. After Yates left office on January 16, 1865, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, a position he held from March 4, 1865, to March 3, 1871. In March 1873, he secured an appointment as U.S. Commissioner to inspect land subsidy railroads. He served in this capacity until his death. Governor Richard Yates died on November 27, 1873, and he was buried at the Diamond Grove Cemetery in Jacksonville, Illinois.


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.

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