John McKinley
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
In office
January 9, 1838 – July 19, 1852
Nominated byMartin Van Buren
Preceded bySeat established
Succeeded byJohn Archibald Campbell
United States Senator
from Alabama
In office
March 4, 1837 – April 22, 1837
Preceded byGabriel Moore
Succeeded byClement Clay
In office
November 27, 1826 – March 3, 1831
Preceded byIsrael Pickens
Succeeded byGabriel Moore
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1833 – March 3, 1835
Preceded bySamuel Mardis
Succeeded byJoshua Martin
Personal details
Born(1780-05-01)May 1, 1780
Culpeper County, Virginia, U.S.
DiedJuly 19, 1852(1852-07-19) (aged 72)
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Resting placeCave Hill Cemetery
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic-Republican (c. 1815–1825)
Jacksonian/Democratic (1826–1852)
Other political
Federalist (before 1815)[1]

John McKinley (May 1, 1780 – July 19, 1852) was a United States Senator from the state of Alabama and an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Early life

McKinley was born in Culpeper County, Virginia, on May 1, 1780, to Andrew McKinley and Mary (Logan) McKinley (sister of Benjamin Logan). His family moved to Kentucky in 1783.[2] There, he read law and was admitted to the bar in 1800, practicing in Frankfort and in Louisville.[3] In 1818, he moved to Alabama. He established legal practice in Huntsville, and also actively engaged in land speculation.[4]

Political career

McKinley was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in August 1820.[4] the next year he moved his family from Huntsville to Florence, and so was ineligible for re-election.[5]

When failing health forced John Williams Walker to resign from the United States Senate in 1822, Mckinley was the favored candidate in the special election to fill the vacancy, but lost to William Kelly by a one-vote margin.[6]

November 27, 1826, he was elected as a Jacksonian to finish the unexpired term of Senator Henry H. Chambers, who died in office.[7] When he sought re-election in 1830, he lost to Gabriel Moore.[4]

During the 1830s, McKinley was twice elected to the Alabama House, in 1831 and 1836. In between he served one term in the United States House of Representatives, during the 1833–35 23rd Congress.[3] There he was a champion of President Andrew Jackson's political agenda.[8] He also was a Presidential Elector in the 1836 presidential election, casting his vote for Martin Van Buren.[4] McKinley was again elected to the U.S. Senate in 1836,[8] this time easily defeating Gabriel Moore.[4] He did not remain in office long however, as he resigned in April 1837, to take a seat on the United States Supreme Court.

Supreme Court service

The number of seats on the Supreme Court was expanded from seven to nine in March 1837, as a result of the Eighth and Ninth Circuits Act.[9] This allowed President Jackson the opportunity to appoint two new associate justices, which he did on March 3, 1837, his last full day in office. The newly seated Senate of the 25th Congress confirmed both nominees; but one, William Smith, subsequently declined to serve.[10]

President Martin Van Buren offered McKinley a recess appointment to the vacant seat on April 22, 1837, and later formally nominated him to for it on September 18, 1837. McKinley was confirmed by the United States Senate on September 25, 1837, by a voice vote.[11]

McKinley was assigned to the ninth circuit, which encompassed the states of: Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas.[4]

During his 14 years on the Court, McKinley wrote 22 opinions, several of which were dissenting opinions in the interest of preserving States' rights.[4]

Noteworthy opinions include: Bank of Augusta v. Earle (1839); Groves v. Slaughter (1841); Pollard v. Hagan (1845) and Passenger Cases (1849).[4][12]

Personal life

McKinley was married twice. In 1814, he married Juliana Bryan (d. 1822).[13] They had three children: Elizabeth, Andrew and Mary.[14] In 1824, he married Elizabeth Armistead (d. 1891). They had no children.[15]

In 1821, McKinley was appointed to serve on the original board of trustees for the University of Alabama and helped plan the campus design and curriculum.[5] He was also a founding member of the First Presbyterian Church of Florence, Alabama,[4] where he was elected as an elder in 1826.[16]

McKinley owned twelve slaves at the time of the 1850 census.[17]

McKinley moved his family to Louisville, Kentucky soon after his appointment to the Supreme Court. He later died there on July 19, 1852, at the age of 72,[4] and is buried at Cave Hill Cemetery.

Legacy and honors

The community of McKinley, Alabama is named in his honor.[18]

The World War II Liberty ship SS John McKinley was named in his honor.[19]

See also


  1. ^ Brown 2012, pp. 27–28.
  2. ^ Brown 2012, pp. 16–18.
  3. ^ a b "John McKinley, 1838-1852". Washington, D.C.: Supreme Court Historical Society. Retrieved February 17, 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Saunders Jr., Robert (December 13, 2017). "John McKinley". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved February 17, 2022.
  5. ^ a b Brown 2012, p. 51.
  6. ^ Brown 2012, p. 55.
  7. ^ Brown 2012, p.71.
  8. ^ a b Brown 2012, p. 11.
  9. ^ "Landmark Legislation: Eighth and Ninth Circuits". Washington, D.C.: Federal Judicial Center. Retrieved February 17, 2022.
  10. ^ "Supreme Court Nominations (1789-Present)". Washington, D.C.: Office of the Secretary, United States Senate. Retrieved February 17, 2022.
  11. ^ McMillion, Barry J. (January 28, 2022). Supreme Court Nominations, 1789 to 2020: Actions by the Senate, the Judiciary Committee, and the President (PDF) (Report). Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved February 17, 2022.
  12. ^ "Mckinley, John". Biographical Encyclopedia of the Supreme Court, 346 (Melvin I. Urofsky ed., 2006). Retrieved February 17, 2022.
  13. ^ Brown 2012, p. 27.
  14. ^ Brown 2012, p. 53.
  15. ^ Brown 2012, pp. 56–57.
  16. ^ Brown 2012, p. 52.
  17. ^ John McKinley, United States census, 1850; Louisville Ward 7, Jefferson, Kentucky;.
  18. ^ Marengo County Heritage Book Committee (2000). The heritage of Marengo County, Alabama. Clanton, Alabama: Heritage Publishing Consultants. p. 9. ISBN 1-891647-58-X.
  19. ^ Williams, Greg H. (2014). The Liberty Ships of World War II: A Record of the 2,710 Vessels and Their Builders, Operators and Namesakes, with a History of the Jeremiah O'Brien. McFarland. ISBN 978-1476617541. Archived from the original on October 14, 2021. Retrieved December 9, 2017.
U.S. House of Representatives Preceded bySamuel Mardis Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Alabama's 2nd congressional district March 4, 1833 – March 3, 1835 Succeeded byJoshua Martin U.S. Senate Preceded byIsrael Pickens U.S. senator (Class 3) from Alabama 1826–1831 Served alongside: William King Succeeded byGabriel Moore Preceded byGabriel Moore U.S. senator (Class 3) from Alabama 1837 Served alongside: William King Succeeded byClement Clay Legal offices New seat Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States 1838–1852 Succeeded byJohn Campbell