WADE HAMPTON III was born in Charleston, South Carolina. He received a bachelor’s degree from South Carolina College in 1836 and remained active in the affairs of his alma mater, establishing scholarships and serving as a trustee there. He also studied law, was a planter and owner of Millwood Plantation, and directed two railroads: South Carolina Railroad; and Louisville, Cincinnati and Charleston Railroad. His public service began with his membership in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1852 to 1858, after which he was a state senator from 1868 to 1861. During the Civil War, he raised and commanded “Hampton’s Legion” in the Confederate Army, receiving promotions to Brigadier-General, Major General, and then commander of the Cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia. An opponent of Radical Republican policies after the war, he was the Democratic nominee for governor in 1876. Although his Republican opponent–incumbent governor Daniel Chamberlain–appeared by the initial vote count to be the winner of the general election, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in favor of counting votes in two counties for which the State Canvassing Board had rejected them, which resulted in Hampton being declared the winner. Nonetheless, Chamberlain had established a rival government, and it was not until President Rutherford B. Hayes withdrew federal troops to signal the end of Reconstruction did Hampton and other elected Democrats take power. During his first term as governor, Hampton focused on the public debt. He was reelected to a second term but left office after being seriously wounded in a hunting accident. He was later elected to the U.S. Senate, in which he served from 1879 until 1891, when he was defeated for reelection to a third term. He went on to win appointment by President Grover Cleveland as a U.S. Railroad Commissioner, holding the post from 1893 to 1897.
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.
Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress