WILLIAM DUNLAP SIMPSON was born in Laurens District, South Carolina. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from South Carolina College in 1843, he attended Harvard Law School briefly and went on to complete his legal studies in a South Carolina law office. He practiced law in Laurens from 1846 to 1875, and was a trustee of Wadsworth Fund and a trustee of South Carolina College from 1877 to 1890. He served in the South Carolina House of Representatives for several non-consecutive terms in the 1850s. During the Civil War, he was appointed a Major and promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, helping to organize the Fourteenth South Carolina Volunteers. He also served in the Confederate States House of Representatives from 1863 to 1865. After the war ended he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives but was denied his seat by Radical Republicans. In 1876, without his knowledge, he was nominated for Lieutenant Governor with Governor Wade Hampton. He took the oath of office as governor the day that Hampton resigned due to a serious injury. As governor, Simpson promoted progressive education legislation and the establishment of an agricultural bureau for the state. After resigning as governor he was appointed Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court, a post that he held until his death.
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.