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Senator James Lusk Alcorn

James Lusk Alcorn was an American politician.

He served as a U.S. Senator (December 1st, 1871 - March 3rd, 1877), Governor of Mississippi (March 1870 - November 30th, 1871), member of the Mississippi state House of Representatives (1846, 1856-57 and 1865), member of the Mississippi state Senate (1848-54), and member of the Kentucky state House of Representatives (1843). Alcorn was principally responsible for legislation establishing the levee system which protected Mississippi with hundreds of miles of levees.

James L. Alcorn
James L. Alcorn
Biographical fast facts

Date and place of birth: November 4, 1816, near Golconda, Illinois

Date, time, place and cause of death: December 20, 1894*, at 12:55 a.m., Eagle's Nest plantation, near Jonestown, Coahoma County, Mississippi, U.S.A. (Natural causes)

Marriage #1
Wife: Mary Catherine Stewart (m. 1839 - 1849) (her death)

Marriage #2
Wife: Amelia Walton Glover (m. December 17th/19th, 1850** - December 20th, 1894) (his death)
Wedding took place at the Rosemount plantation, Greene County, Alabama, U.S.A.

Sons: Milton Stewart Alcorn, Henry Lusk Alcorn, Glover Alcorn, and James Alcorn
Daughters: Catherine Mary Alcorn (b. May 2, 1840, Salem, Kentucky - d. November 10, 1910, Forkland, Alabama), Rosebud Alcorn, Gertrude Alcorn, Justina Alcorn, and Angeline Alcorn

Note that Catherine, Milton, and Henry, resulted from his first marriage to Mary Catherine Stewart.

Father: James Alcorn (a sheriff) (1788-1859)
Mother: Hannah Louise (Lusk) Alcorn (1794-1858)

Burial site: The Alcorn family cemetery, Eagle's Nest plantation, near Jonestown, Coahoma County, Mississippi, U.S.A.

Error corrections or clarifications

* Many sources erroneously report Senator James Alcorn died "December 19, 1894." It was actually at 12:55 a.m., on December 20th, 1894, that he passed away.

** Note that sources are divided over whether the Senator married Amelia Walton Glover December 17th, or the 19th. Some marriage records indicate the 17th, while personal papers from the Alcorn family designate the 19th as the correct date.


In 1836, after attending Cumberland College, in Princeton, Kentucky for less than a year, James Lusk Alcorn left to try his hand at teaching in Jackson, Arkansas. Not finding educational instruction to his liking, he returned to Kentucky and became deputy sheriff of Lexington County, under his uncle, Sheriff Randolph W. Alcorn. His marriage to Mary Catherine Stewart took place in 1839, and produced two sons and a daughter. He got his first taste of statewide politics while serving in the Kentucky state House of Representatives in 1843. Seeking his fortune, in 1844 he packed up his young family and headed south. They settled in Coahoma County, Mississippi, where he set up his law practice and began accumulating property. Before he was finished, he owned twenty thousand acres of land. His wife Mary died in childbirth in 1849. The following year he married Amelia Walton Glover. 2 sons and 4 daughters resulted from that union.

The owner of dozens of slaves, J. L. Alcorn served as a Confederate Militia Brigadier General for 18 months during the U.S. Civil War, but reportedly hated military life and returned to his plantation. During the war, his son Henry Lusk Alcorn died while returning home, en route from Richmond, of complications from typhoid fever. His son Milton Stewart Alcorn was also a Civil War veteran, and returned from the war with a permanent hearing injury. Following the war, Milton took to drinking heavily, and later committed suicide.

While a strong believer in white supremacy, following the war, James Alcorn did support civil and political rights for African-Americans. Alcorn was founder of the Mississippi levee system and was made president of the levee board of the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta in 1858. He was principally responsible for legislation establishing the levee system which protected Mississippi with hundreds of miles of levees.

For the next three decades, he served in the Mississippi state Senate (1848-54), Mississippi state House of Representatives (1846, 1856-57 and 1865), while continuing his prosperous law practice at the law firm of Alcorn, Stricklin and Harman.

Following his resignation from Alcorn, Stricklin and Harman in 1869, he briefly served as Governor of Mississippi (1870-71), then as U.S. Senator (1871-77).

As the political landscape changed, so did Alcorn. Some considered it rather disingenuous that he switched parties as many times as he did whenever it might prove advantageous to his political career. Others argued that it was the political parties who'd abandoned their core values, forcing the moves. He was an ardent Whig as long as that political party existed, and helped found the Union Party composed of Whigs and Union-Democrats. He later moved over to the Republican Party while Governor of Mississippi and as U.S. Senator.

Following his retirement from public life, Alcorn lived quietly at his palatial plantation home. In 1879 he built the three-story, twenty-two room Victorian mansion named "Eagle's Nest" near Jonestown, in Coahoma County. In 1886, he suffered the first of a series of stokes that eventually left him confined to a wheelchair for the remainder of his life.


The most in-depth of more than two dozen sources consulted in preparing this profile, was the 1966 biography, James Lusk Alcorn: Persistent Whig, by Lillian A. Pereyra.

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