Thursday, January 1, 2015

Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar (1825-1893)

can think of no better politician to post first than the man who
occupied the #1 slot on the political strange names list for over a
decade: Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar of Mississippi. One of the
most preeminent politicians of his day, Lamar served in variety of
public offices during his life, both at the state and national level. He
was named after his father, who himself was named in honor of the Roman
General and aristocrat Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus. 
service (as well as a penchant for odd names) are of some note in the
Lamar family. Besides having a father who served as a jurist, Lucius
Lamar II also had two prominent uncles, Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar (a
former President of the Texas Republic and later Minister to Nicaragua)
and Gazaway Bugg Lamar, a Confederate banker, businessman and
Q.C. Lamar Sr. was regarded as a fairly prominent judge in Georgia and
in 1830 was named to a seat on the Superior Court of that state.
Strangely, he committed suicide on July 4, 1834, allegedly because he
had sentenced a man to death for a crime he hadn't committed.
Q.C. Lamar II was born on September 17, 1825, near Eatonton, Georgia.
He attended Emory University and graduated from this institution in the
class of 1845. He married in 1847 to Ms. Virginia Longstreet
(1826-1884), the daughter of former Emory College president Augustus
Baldwin Longstreet and in 1849 traveled with his father-in -law to
Mississippi, where he took on a mathematics professorship at the newly
established University of Mississippi. In addition to his teaching
career, Lamar opened a law practice in the city of Oxford, and later
established a cotton plantation in the nearby town of Abbeville. Lamar
and his wife Virginia later became the parents of four children, Frances
Eliza (1849-1923), Lucius Q.C. Lamar III (1854-1936), Sarah Augusta
(1860-1926) and Virginia Longstreet (1865-1884). Lucius III followed in
his father's footsteps and became a public official, serving as receiver
of the General Land Office in Washington for a number of years.

 Lucius Q.C. Lamar remained in the Mississippi area until 1852, when he
relocated back to Georgia. He made his first jump into politics in
1853, when he ran for and was elected to the Georgia State House of
Representatives. He moved back to Mississippi in 1855 and in the
following year won election to the U.S. House of Representatives,
ultimately serving until 1860. At the outbreak of the Civil War that
year, Lamar resigned his congressional seat to join in his state's
Secession movement, and later helped draft the Mississippi Ordinance of

                  The Mississippi Congressional delegation that resigned in 1860. Lucius Lamar is located at 
                  bottom left, while fellow strangely named congressman Otho Robards Singleton is shown at 
                  top right. Confederate President Jefferson Davis is shown at the very top of the print.

 In 1862, Confederate President Jefferson Davis appointed Lamar as
Confederate Minister to Russia, and later as Special Envoy to England
and France. After the conclusion of the Civil War, he resumed his
earlier career as a professor, teaching social science and law at the
University of Mississippi. In addition to this Lamar was also a delegate
to Mississippi's constitutional conventions before being returned to
Congress as a Representative in 1873. His election took place after he
had sworn allegiance to the Union, and Lamar had the honor of being as
the first Democrat from Mississippi to sit in the House since before the
Civil War. He retained his house seat until 1877, and in that year won
election to the U.S. Senate, and here served eight years. 
his two senate terms Lamar became known as a truly polarizing political
figure, so much so that sixty-two years after his death, then U.S.
Senator John F. Kennedy profiled Lamar in his 1955 Pulitzer Prize
winning book Profiles in Courage. Lamar's placement in said book
was earned by his moving eulogy of Charles Sumner on the Senate floor in
1874 (delivered when he was a Representative) as well as his efforts to
mend the still tense relations between the North and South. 

                                                  Lamar during his  Congressional tenure.

1885, Lamar was chosen by President-elect Grover Cleveland to be his
Secretary of the Interior. Cleveland wanted Lamar's appointment to the
office to be a symbol of reconciliation between North and South, and he
officially joined the cabinet on March 6, 1885. Lamar's tenure in the
Interior department was largely uneventful, and the Congressional Quarterly's Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court gives mention that he "directed the reclamation of thousands of acres of public lands"
and later had a hand in implementing new policies that saved Native
American lands from private development. Also during Lamar's cabinet
service, a geological survey was taken in Yellowstone National Park.
This survey was completed in 1885 and a number of park features were
subsequently named in his honor, including the Lamar River and Lamar

Earlier in 1884, Lamar's wife of over thirty years passed away. Three
years following Virginia Longstreet Lamar's death, Lucius remarried to
Ms. Henrietta J. Holt (1827-1903) in Columbus, Georgia.

                        Lamar (pictured on the end of the 2nd row) during his cabinet service.

 Lamar's tenure at the Interior department was short lived (just short
of three years) and in 1888 he was nominated by Cleveland to a vacancy
on the U.S. Supreme Court to succeed Associate Justice William Burnham
Woods. The Senate confirmed Lamar by a narrow margin (32 to 28) and it
is noted that at age 62, he was the oldest man yet appointed to a seat
on the nation's highest court. He took his seat on January 16, 1888. To
date, Lamar remains the only Mississippian to have served on the high
his lack of judicial experience, Lamar was highly regarded by his
colleagues on the bench, and a quote by then Chief Justice Melville
Fuller states that "H
is was the most suggestive mind I ever knew, and not one of us but has drawn from its inexhaustible store."

Lamar's service on the court was cut short by his death from a series
of strokes, the last of which felled him on January 23, 1893 in
Vineville, Georgia. In the days following his demise, Lamar was interred
in a cemetery in Macon, Georgia. In 1894 his remains were subsequently
removed to his current resting place in Oxford Memorial Cemetery in
Oxford, Mississippi. He was survived by three of his children, as well
as his second wife Henrietta, who died a decade after her husband at age

                           The U.S. Supreme Court in 1890. Lamar is second from left in the top row.

From the January 24, 1893 Maysville Evening Courier.

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