Guide to the Benjamin F. Porter Family Papers, RG 155
Listed by: Dieter C. Ullrich
Date: October 2003
1.0 cubic feet; 60 items.
Number of Boxes:
2 document boxes.
Historical or Biographical Sketch:
Benjamin Faneuil Porter was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1808. His father died while he was very young, which left his family financially troubled. His educational background was limited, having left school at an early age to support his mother and sister. He initially worked as a druggist in Charleston and attempted to study medicine. Porter however changed mind and began to study law. In 1826 was admitted to the South Carolina Bar and soon afterwards began to practice law in Charleston. Three years later, in 1829, Porter and his new wife relocated to to Claiborne, Alabama. He was granted a license to practice law in Alabama in 1830. In 1832 he was elected to the State Legislature from Monroe County. Two years later he was elected as County Judge. He and his family moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1835. Returning to politics he was re-elected to the State Legislature in 1837 and elected Circuit Court Judge in 1839. He was the first chair of the University of Alabama School of Law in 1845 but resigned within the year. Prior to the American Civil War he edited a newspaper; served as Reporter to the Alabama State Supreme Court; was the Superintendant of Education; was the President of Will's Valley Railroad; and ran for State Senate but was defeated. At the outbreak of the war, he offered his services to Jefferson Davis and was appointed to command a camp of instruction at Greenville, Alabama. Following the war, Porter joined the Republican Party and accepted the Judgeship of the 12th Judicial Circuit. He died on June 4, 1868 in Greenville, Butler County, Alabama. (see History of Butler County, Alabama from 1815 to 1885 and Reminiscences of Public Men in Alabama)
Scope and Content:
Collection consists of three letters to Judge Benjamin F. Porter, 1846- 1865, one of which is a Jefferson Davis letter. The other correspondence (1939-1946) are letters to Miss Kate Howard, Greenville, Alabama. Included in the collection are: genealogical and biographical papers, legal items, miscellaneous papers, scrapbooks, and other printed material collected by the Porter family. Handsewn or tied together in one bundle are printed materials of various types, including: three issues of The Bachelor's Button and Townes History of Marion, Sketches of Life, etc. in Perry County , 1844; and medical lectures. Of particular interest is a manuscript of "Reminiscences of Benjamin F. Porter of Men and Things in Alabama".
1826 - Admitted by Court of Appeals as attorney and counselor at law and solicitor in chancery
1828 - Married Miss Eliza Tayor Kidd
1829 - Removed to Claiborne, Alabama
1832 - Elected as representative to Alabama legislature from Monroe County and again in 1833 and 1834
1834 - Elected Reporter Supreme Court; also served Judge of County Court of Monroe County
1835 - Moved to Tuscaloosa
1837-1840 - Elected to Alabama House of Representatives from Tuscaloosa County, also Trustee of University of Alabama, and attorney for the institution
1839-1840 - Legislative session elected Judge 10th Judicial Circuit [Mobile, Alabama], created from other circuits during the session
1840 - Resigned as judge because of some doubt of his eligibility, after legislative appointment. During service in legislature, Judge Porter made great contributions in instituting penitentiary system, advocated abolishing capital punishment, abolishing imprisonmnent for debt, authored bill for establishment of common school fund for public education in Alabama under 16th section grants
1845 - Elected to fill newly-established chair of law school, University of Alabama; did not deliver 1st lecture due to lack of legislative appropriation to finance law school
1848 - Purchased summer home at Cave Springs, Floyd County, Georgia
1850-1851 - In Charleston, South Carolina practiced law and wrote for and edited Charleston News
1851 - DeKalb County, lawyer, and also edited paper, Will's Valley Post, Superintendant of Education, and President Will's Valley Railroad; ran for Senate and defeated
1861 Moved to Greenville, Alabama offered his services to Jefferson Davis; appointed colonel, commanding camp of instruction at Greenville. First Confederate hospital in Greenville Porter home; Ms. Porter volunteer matron of town hospital and later of Confederate hospital
1864 - Oldest son, Dr. John R. Porter, killed at Franklin, Tennessess.
1868 - Died
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