WILLIAM AIKEN was born in Charleston, South Carolina. After graduating from South Carolina College in 1825, he operated a rice plantation on Jehossee Island. Prior to being elected governor, he was a member of the South Carolina legislature. Aiken’s focus as governor was on economic development and railroad construction, and large-scale manufacturing began to grow during his term in office. After leaving office, Aiken was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving from 1851 until 1857. An opponent of secession, when the Civil War broke out he would not side with or against South Carolina. However, upon declining a federal government invitation to be present when the national flag was raised over Ft. Sumter after its surrender, he was arrested by command of the Secretary of War and taken to Washington under guard. He appealed to President Andrew Johnson-with whom he had been friends during their years of service in Congress-and was released by Johnson’s order. Although Aiken was elected to House of Representatives once again after the war ended, he was denied his seat by the Radical Republicans.
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.