William Rufus King—Lawyer, Diplomat and Politician

William R. KingOn April 18, 1853 William Rufus Devane King—senator, diplomat and vice president of the United States—died.

Born in Sampson County, King distinguished himself early on as an excellent student, graduating from the University of North Carolina in 1804, at age 18. He moved to Fayetteville to study law and established his own practice in nearby Clinton a year later. He entered politics in 1808 as a member of the North Carolina House of Commons at age 22, and was elected to United States Congress in 1810. There he allied himself with prominent politicians of the time includuing Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun.

In 1818, King left North Carolina for Alabama, where an abundance of inexpensive, yet fertile, land offered significant profits. In 1819, King helped draft Alabama’s state constitution and was elected to the United States Senate, where he served for 20 years. He was elected vice president in March 1853. Shortly after his election, King traveled to Cuba to ease his tuberculosis. His health thus forced him to become the first and only vice president to be sworn into office while on foreign soil. Soon after his return to America, King succumbed to his illness before ever reaching the District of Columbia.

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