James McDowell

James McDowell (October 13, 1795 – August 24, 1851) was the 29th Governor of Virginia from 1843 to 1846 and was a U.S. Congressman from 1846 to 1851.

James McDowell
Daguerreotype portrait of Governor McDowell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 11th district
In office
March 6, 1846  March 3, 1851
Preceded byWilliam Taylor
Succeeded byJohn Letcher
29th Governor of Virginia
In office
January 1, 1843  January 1, 1846
Preceded byJohn Munford Gregory (acting)
Succeeded byWilliam Smith
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates
In office
Personal details
BornOctober 13, 1795
Rockbridge County, Virginia U.S.
DiedAugust 24, 1851 (aged 55)
Lexington, Virginia U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseSusanna Smith Preston


McDowell was born at "Cherry Grove," near Rockbridge County, Virginia, on October 13, 1795. He attended a classical school at Greenville, Virginia, a private school at Brownsburg, Washington College (now Washington and Lee University), Lexington, Virginia, and Yale College He graduated from Princeton University in 1817 and studied law. He was admitted to the bar but did not practice. He was a member of the State house of delegates 1831–1835 and again in 1838. He was chosen as Governor of Virginia in 1843. He was elected as a Democrat to the Twenty-ninth Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of William Taylor. He was reelected to the Thirtieth and Thirty-first Congresses and served from March 6, 1846, to March 3, 1851. McDowell died on his estate "Col Alto" near Lexington, August 24, 1851. He was interred in Presbyterian Cemetery.

McDowell was the brother-in-law of Senator Thomas Hart Benton. McDowell County, Virginia (now part of West Virginia) was formed in 1858 and named in honor of Governor McDowell.[1]


  1. Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 194.

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

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