Atchison, David R.

Born: 1807-08-11 Frogtown, Kentucky

Died: 1886-01-26 Clinton County, Missouri

David R. Atchison studied law at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. He earned admittance to the bar in 1829 and started a practice in Liberty, Missouri. Atchison, a Democrat, was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives, where he served from 1834 to 1842. In 1841, Atchison was appointed judge of the Platte County Circuit Court. Two years later, in 1843, he was appointed to and then elected to the U.S. Senate as a Whig, serving until 1855. The Senate elected him president pro tempore on March 4, 1853. After Vice President William R. D. King’s death on April 18, 1853, this technically made Atchison—as president pro tempore of the Senate—acting vice president of the United States. He served in both roles until the Senate elected Lewis Cass president pro tempore on December 4, 1854. Cass was elected to this position because Atchison did not attend the opening of the Thirty-Third Congress’ second Senate session; he was leading pro-slavery forces in Bleeding Kansas instead. Although Atchison returned to the Senate in late-December 1854, he did not reclaim his role as president pro tempore. Atchison also failed to win reelection in 1854. Throughout 1855 and 1856, Atchison commanded pro-slavery troops in the Kansas Territory. Atchison, Kansas was named after him. In 1860, he was farming in Clinton County, Missouri, where he owned $25,000 in real estate, $20,000 in personal property, and sixteen enslaved people. By September 1861, he was leading the Missouri State Guard forces as a general against Union troops. He supported the Confederacy during the Civil War, and lived in Texas throughout its duration.

Atchison married Lucinda Jane Diller in St. Louis in April 1847 and the couple had at least three children.

Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774-1949 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1950), 794, 1415; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Clinton County, MO, 19; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Slave Schedule, Clinton County, MO, 2; Joseph W. McCoskrie Jr. and Brian Warren, The Civil War Missouri Compendium: Almost Unabridged (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2017), 69; Missouri, U.S., Marriage Records, 1805-2002, 22 April 1847, St. Louis (Lehi, UT: Operations, 2007); U.S. Census Office, Ninth Census of the United States (1870), Clinton County, MO, 48; U.S. Senate Journal. 1853. 33rd Cong., special sess., 331; U.S. Senate Journal. 1854. 33rd Cong., 2nd sess., 5-6, 65; U.S. Const. art. I, § 3; Steven G. O’Brien, American Political Leaders: From Colonial Times to the Present(Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1991), 16; William E. Parrish, “David Rice Atchison of Missouri,” University of Missouri Studies 34, no. 1 (1961), 167-68; Gravestone, Greenlawn Cemetery, Plattsburg, MO.