THOMAS WALKER GILMER was born at Gilmerton in Albermarle County, Virginia. Privately educated, he studied law under his uncle and practiced law in Charlottesville. He was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, serving from 1829 to 1836. He was also Speaker of two sessions of the House of Delegates in 1839 and 1840. Elected governor by the state legislature, Gilmer inspected state roads, schools, canals, railways, and other facilities at his own expense. After one year in office, he resigned in protest of the legislature’s failure to support his demand that Governor Seward of New York return fugitive slaves in exchange for a New York felon being held in Virginia. He went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1841 to 1844, resigning to accept appointment as Secretary of the Navy. But just weeks after being confirmed, he was killed in an explosion aboard the U.S.S. Princeton.
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