William Alexander Richardson

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William Alexander Richardson
William Alexander Richardson - Brady-Handy.jpg
United States Senator
from Illinois
In office
January 12, 1863 – March 3, 1865
Preceded byOrville H. Browning
Succeeded byRichard Yates
5th Governor of Nebraska Territory
In office
January 12, 1858 – December 5, 1858
PresidentJames Buchanan
Preceded byThomas B. Cuming
Succeeded byJulius Sterling Morton
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 5th district
In office
March 4, 1861 – January 12, 1863
Preceded byIsaac N. Morris
Succeeded byOwen Lovejoy
In office
December 6, 1847 – August 25, 1856
Preceded byStephen A. Douglas
Succeeded byJacob C. Davis
12th Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives
In office
December 5, 1842 – December 2, 1844
Preceded bySamuel Hackleton
Succeeded byNewton Cloud
Member of the Illinois Senate
In office
Member of the Illinois House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born(1811-01-16)January 16, 1811
Lexington, Kentucky, US
DiedDecember 27, 1875(1875-12-27) (aged 64)
Quincy, Illinois, US
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materCentre College
Transylvania University
ProfessionPolitician, Lawyer
Military service
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
Battles/warsMexican–American War

William Alexander Richardson (January 16, 1811 – December 27, 1875) was a prominent Illinois Democratic politician before and during the American Civil War.

Born near Lexington, Kentucky, Richardson attended Transylvania University, and then proceeded to teach school and study law. He passed the bar exam in 1831 and started his practice in Shelbyville, Illinois. He was an attorney for the state from 1834 to 1835, and was elected representative to the state house, serving from 1836 to 1838. He moved over to the state senate from 1838 to 1842, and then back to the house again from 1844 to 1846, briefly serving as speaker of the lower house during his last term. He was a presidential elector in 1844 for the Democrats.

Richardson enlisted as a captain in the U.S. Army during the Mexican–American War, and was promoted to the rank of major. After the war, he moved to Quincy, Illinois, and then was elected to the 30th Congress to fill Stephen A. Douglas's seat. He was then reelected to the 31st, 32nd, 33rd, and 34th Congresses for the same seat (1847 to 1856).

During his time in the House of Representatives, he was the Chairman of the Committee on Territories (32nd–33rd Congresses). He resigned in August 1856 to run for Governor of Illinois. He narrowly lost to fellow representative, and first nominee of the newly established Republican Party William H. Bissell. Richardson took most of south Illinois while Bissell won most of north Illinois, and a couple of counties in the southern part of the state. Bissell won by 4,697 votes (slightly less than 2% of the vote).[1]

After being defeated, Richardson was appointed by President James Buchanan as the Governor of the Nebraska Territory for most of 1858. Richardson resigned near the end of the year.

He was a delegate to 1860 Democratic National Convention from Illinois. He then came back to Washington D.C. as a member of the 37th Congress in 1861. In 1863, he was elected to fill Stephen Douglas's old seat in the United States Senate, defeating incumbent Republican Orville Browning. He was not renominated in 1865 and spent the rest of his life engaged in newspaper work.

He died on December 27, 1875 in Quincy, Illinois, where he is buried.

Richardson County, Nebraska is named after him.


  1. ^ "Our Campaigns - IL Governor Race - Nov 04, 1856". www.ourcampaigns.com. Retrieved March 5, 2021.


  1. "Richardson, William Alexander". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved January 10, 2006.
  2. "Richardson, William Alexander". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved January 10, 2006.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Joel Aldrich Matteson
Democratic nominee for Governor of Illinois
Succeeded by
James C. Allen
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Stephen A. Douglas
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
Jacob C. Davis
Political offices
Preceded by
Mark W. Izard
Territorial Governor
Thomas B. Cuming
Acting Territorial Governor
Territorial Governor of Nebraska
January 12, 1858 – December 5, 1858
Succeeded by
J. Sterling Morton
Acting Territorial Governor
Samuel W. Black
Territorial Governor
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Isaac N. Morris
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
Owen Lovejoy
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Orville H. Browning
U.S. senator (Class 2) from Illinois
January 12, 1863 – March 3, 1865
Served alongside: Lyman Trumbull
Succeeded by
Richard Yates