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Isham Green Harris

Governor , Senator

Isham Green Harris, American senator, governor of Tennessee. member Tennessee Senate, 1847-1848; member United States House of Representatives from Tennessee, 31st-32d congresses, 1849-1853; member United States Senate from Tennessee, 1877-1897, president pro tem, 1893-1895.


Harris was born in Franklin County, Tennessee near Tullahoma. He was the ninth child of Isham Green Harris, a farmer and Methodist minister, and his wife Lucy Davidson Harris. His parents had moved from North Carolina to Middle Tennessee in 1806.


He was educated at Carrick Academy in Winchester, Tennessee until he was fourteen.


He moved to Paris, Tennessee where he joined up with his brother William, an attorney, and became a store clerk. In 1838, with funds provided by his brother, Harris established his own business in Ripley, Mississippi, an area that had only been recently opened to settlers after a treaty with the Chickasaw Indians.

While in Ripley he studied law. He sold his successful business three years later for $7,000 and returned to Paris where he continued studying law under Judge Andrew McCampbell. On May 3, 1841 he was admitted to the bar in Henry County and began a lucrative practice in Paris. He was considered one of the leading criminal attorneys in the state. On July 6, 1843 Harris married Martha Mariah Travis (nicknamed Crockett), the daughter of Major Edward Travis, a War of 1812 veteran. The couple had seven sons. By 1850 the family had a three hundred acre farm and a home in Paris. By 1860 their total property worth $45,000 and included twenty slaves and a plantation in Shelby County

After the war, Harris fled with General Hylan B. Lyon and other Confederates to Mexico, hoping to rally with Maximillian. Harris then sought refuge in England. Upon learning that only the highest-ranking officials of the Confederacy were being punished, and that it might be possible for all others to have their civil rights restored, he returned to Tennessee and resumed the practice of law in Memphis, Tennessee. He was subsequently elected to four terms in the U.S. Senate, serving from 1877 until his death, and is, to date, Tennessee's second-longest serving Senator, next to Kenneth McKellar. From 1893 to 1895 (53rd Congress), Harris was President pro tempore of the Senate. Other Senate assignments in his career included chairing the District of Columbia Committee in the 46th Congress and the 53rd Congress, the Committee on Epidemic Diseases in the 49th Congress through the 52nd Congress, and the Committee on Private Land Claims in the 54th and 55th Congresses.


Member Tennessee Senate, 1847-1848. Member United States House of Representatives from Tennessee, 31st-32d congresses, 1849-1853. Member United States Senate from Tennessee, 1877-1897, president pro tem, 1893-1895.


Married Martha Travis, 1843, 8 children.

Lucy (Davidson) Harris

Martha Travis