George H. Williams, (1823 – 1910)

Born in New Lebanon, Columbia County, N.Y. on March 26, 1823. Upon completing preparatory studies he studied law and began his practice at Fort Madison in the Iowa Territory. He was elected Judge of the First Judicial District of Iowa, then a presidential elector on the Democratic ticket in 1852. The next year Williams was appointed Chief Justice of the Oregon Territory by President Pierce and was involved in Oregon’s constitution convention leading to statehood.

Williams was elected US Senator from Oregon in 1864 and served from 1865 – 1871. It was this rookie senator who represented Oregon in the Lincoln Funeral Congressional delegation. He attended the funeral services at the White House, Capital, and departed Washington on the funeral train. Interestingly Williams was one of the few who rode the Lincoln funeral train the entire 1,650 mile route.

Williams was not successful in his Senate re-election bid, but President Grant appointed him to the treaty commission who would lay the groundwork for the Treaty of Washington and the settlement of all disputes existing between the United States and Great Britain. Grant would a year later choose Williams as his Attorney General to replace Mr. Akerman.

Williams’ tenure as Attorney General was marred by poor performance – especially in the prosecution of the Credit Mobilier case; furthermore, Williams found himself in hot water as a result of his wife’s extravagant life style. It became known that Mrs. Williams had purchased the most expensive carriage in Washington and equipped it with a liveried coachman and footman, all paid for by the government. Williams had also commingled his personal accounts with those of the department, paying personal checks with government funds. Even though he repaid the money – the political damage was done.

These inconsistencies occurred after Grant considered Williams for a Supreme Court Chief Justice. Once the Grant administration cracked down on the Whiskey Ring, there was a general housecleaning of inept officeholders. Two weeks before agents struck, Grant asked for and received the resignation of Williams as Attorney General.

Williams would serve as Mayor of Portland, Oregon from 1902 – 1905. Five years later he would die in Portland and is buried in Riverview Cemetery in Portland.

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