Barry, William T.

Born: 1784-02-05 Lunenburg County, Virginia

Died: 1835-08-30 Liverpool, United Kingdom

Flourished: Washington, D.C.

In 1796, Barry moved to Kentucky, where he attended Pisgah Academy and Kentucky Academy in Woodford County, Transylvania University in Lexington, and the College of William and Mary in Virginia, from which he graduated in 1803. He studied law and received admittance to the bar in 1805, commencing practice first in Jessamine County, Kentucky, and later in Lexington. He received appointment as Commonwealth Attorney, and in 1807, he served in the Kentucky House of Representatives. In 1810, he won election as a Democratic Republican to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving until 1811. During the War of 1812, he was a military secretary on the staff of Governor Isaac Shelby, achieving the rank of major. In 1814, he returned to the Kentucky House of Representatives, and his fellow representatives elected him speaker. In December 1814, the Kentucky Legislature elected him to the U.S. Senate as a Democratic Republican. He was in the Senate until May 1816, when he resigned to become judge of the circuit court of Kentucky's eleventh district. From 1817 to 1821, he was in the Kentucky Senate, and in 1820, he won election as lieutenant governor. When his term ended in 1824, he became Kentucky secretary of state, serving in that capacity until 1825, when he became chief justice of the Kentucky Court of Appeals. In 1828, he was an unsuccessful candidate for governor. From 1829 to 1835, he was postmaster general in the administration of President Andrew Jackson. Barry proved to be a corrupt and poor administrator, but Jackson retained him and covered up his malfeasance due to his loyalty to the administration, particularly during the scandal over John H. Eaton and his wife, Peggy O'Neill Timberlake Eaton. In June 1835, Jackson finally removed Barry, rewarding him for his loyalty by naming him ambassador to Spain. Barry died en route to Madrid to assume his new post.

Gravestone, Frankfort Cemetery, Frankfort, Kentucky; Anderson Chesnault Quisenberry, Kentucky in the War of 1812 (Frankfort, KY: Kentucky Historical Society, 1915; Reprint, Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing, 1969), 89; Thomas H. Appleton, Jr., "Barry, William Taylor," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 2:258-59.