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Thomas W. Gilmer
28th Governor of Virginia

In office
March 31, 1840 – March 20, 1841
Preceded by David Campbell
Succeeded by James McDowell
15th United States Secretary of the Navy

In office
February 19, 1844 – February 28, 1844
Preceded by David Henshaw
Succeeded by John Y. Mason
Personal details
Born (1802-04-06)April 6, 1802
Albemarle County, Virginia, United States
Died February 28, 1844(1844-02-28) (aged 41)
Aboard USS Princeton, Potomac River, Maryland, United States
Political party Whig, Democrat
Spouse(s) Anne Elizabeth Baker
Children George Hudson Gilmer
Profession Politician, Lawyer

Thomas Walker Gilmer (April 6, 1802 – February 28, 1844) was an American statesman.

Personal life

Gilmer was born to George and Eliza Gilmer at their farm, "Gilmerton", in Albemarle County, Virginia. He was taught by private tutors in Charlottesville and Staunton, and studied law in Liberty (now Bedford), Virginia.[1][2][3]

Gilmer practiced law in Charlottesville. He was, briefly, editor of the Virginia Advocate, a Charlottesville newspaper.[1][2]

On May 23, 1826, Gilmer married Anne Elizabeth Baker of Shepherdstown, now in West Virginia. Her late father, John Baker, had been a member of the United States House of Representatives.[1] They had a son, George Hudson Gilmer, a Presbyterian minister.

In 1829, Gilmer purchased Israel Jefferson, a former slave of Thomas Jefferson, who is known best known for claiming that Sally Hemings was Thomas Jefferson's concubine. Gilmer later agreed to let Israel pay his own purchase price for his freedom after Gilmer's election to congress, as Israel desired to stay with his wife, a free woman.[4]

Political career


Sketch of Thomas W. Gilmer

Gilmer first served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1829–36, representing Albemarle County. He returned in 1839-40 and was named Speaker.[1][2]

On February 14, 1840, Gilmer was elected the 28th Governor of Virginia. While in office, he had a disagreement with the Virginia General Assembly over the extradition of slave stealers, which played a part in his running for Congress the following winter.[1][2]

In March 1841, he entered the 27th Congress, and although he had been elected as a Whig, voted to sustain Democratic President John Tyler's vetoes. He was re-elected to the 28th Congress as a Democrat in 1842 by a close vote. His competitor, William L. Goggin, contested the result without success.[citation needed]

As one of President Tyler's close Virginia allies in Washington, Gilmer was involved in the effort by the Tyler Administration to make the annexation of Texas the basis for his failed bid for reelection in 1844. On February 15, 1844, he was appointed by Tyler to be U.S. Secretary of the Navy, and resigned his seat in Congress on February 18 to enter on the duties of the office, but 10 days later was killed by the bursting of a gun on board USS Princeton while on a tour of the Potomac River. His death meant the loss of a valuable ally for Tyler and some historians suggest that it may have delayed the Texas annexation effort.[citation needed]

Electoral History


Gilmer was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives with 50.21% of the vote, defeating William Leftwich Goggin.


Gilmer is buried at Mount Air Cemetery in Gilbert, Virginia.[5] A year after his death, Gilmer County, Virginia was named in his honor;[2] it is now part of West Virginia. The city of Gilmer, Texas is also named for him. (Gilmer is the county seat of Upshur County, Texas, named after Abel Parker Upshur, another victim of the USS Princeton explosion.)

Two ships of the United States Navy have been named USS Gilmer in his honor.

The town of Gilmer, Texas was named in his honor.



External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Linn Banks
Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates
1839 – 1840
Succeeded by
Valentine W. Southall
Preceded by
David Campbell
Governor of Virginia
March 31, 1840 – March 20, 1841
Succeeded by
John M. Patton
Acting Governor
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
James Garland
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 12th congressional district

March 4, 1841 – March 4, 1843
Succeeded by
Augustus A. Chapman
Preceded by
Edmund W. Hubard
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 5th congressional district

March 4, 1843 – February 16, 1844
Succeeded by
William L. Goggin
Government offices
Preceded by
David Henshaw
United States Secretary of the Navy
February 19, 1844 – February 24, 1844
Succeeded by
John Y. Mason

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