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William Nathan Harrell Smith

congressman , jurist

William Nathan Harrell Smith, American congressman, jurist. member North Carolina Senate, 1848; member United States House of Representatives from North Carolina, 36th Congress, 1859-1861.


SMITH, William Nathan Harrell was born on September 24, 1812 in Murfreesboro, Hartford County, North Carolina, United States, United States. Son of Dr. William L. Smith and his wife Ann (Harrell), who died the following year.


Graduated from Yale, 1834, attended Law School, 1836, honorary Doctor of Laws, 1881. Honorary Doctor of Laws, Wake Forest College, 1874, U. North Carolina, 1875.


He attended academies at Murfreesboro, Kingston, Rhode Island, and Colchester, Connecticut, prior to graduating from Yale College in 1834. He also studied law at Yale in 1836 and began his practice in North Carolina in 1839. He was a member of the Presbyterian church.

In January 1839, he married Mary Olivia Wise, by whom he had three children. He developed a successful law practice and entered politics. Smith, a Whig, represented Hartford County in the North Carolina House in 1840 and in the North Carolina Senate in 1848.

In 1848, he was solicitor for the state Judicial District. He ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House in 1857 but went on to serve in the state Senate in 1858 and the U.S. House from 1859 to 1861, where he fell one vote short of being elected speaker. Although he was a political ally of the Know-Nothings, he disapproved of their actions.

Smith, who had been a unionist, served in the provisional and both permanent Confederate Houses. He served on the Claims, Rules, Elections, Medical Department, and Conference Committees. Always conservative, he opposed the Davis administration but voted against the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

He advocated the elimination of military exemptions for those who furnished substitutes to fight in their places, and he opposed the peace movement. When the war ended, he returned to his Murfreesboro law practice and was elected to the North Carolina House in 1865. He did not join the Republican party, but he collaborated with the carpetbag forces in North Carolina.

He opposed the Reconstruction Act of 1868. Two years later, he moved briefly to Norfolk, Virginia, but he practiced law in Raleigh around 1871 and was involved in the defense of William W. Holden. He was a member of the Democratic state committee, and from 1878 to 1889, he was chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.


"Peculiar institution" of slavery was not only expedient but also ordained by God and upheld in Holy Scripture.


Stands for preserving slavery, states' rights, and political liberty for whites. Every individual state is sovereign, even to the point of secession.


Member North Carolina Senate, 1848. Member United States House of Representatives from North Carolina, 36th Congress, 1859-1861.


Married Mary Olivia Wise, January 14, 1839.

William Lay Smith

Ann (Harrell) Smith

Mary Olivia Wise