Gentry, Meredith P.

Born: 1809-09-15 Rockingham County, North Carolina

Died: 1866-11-02 Nashville, Tennessee

Meredith P. Gentry moved to Williamson County, Tennessee, in 1813, where he completed preparatory studies and studied law. He was admitted to the bar and opened a short-lived law practice in Franklin. Gentry married Emily Saunders in 1837, with whom he had two daughters. He won election to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1835 and served until 1839. That year, he secured a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, as a Whig, serving until 1843. He refused to be a candidate for renomination in 1842, on account of his wife's death. He won election back to the House in 1844, serving from 1845 until 1853. In 1846, Gentry married Caledonia Brown, with whom he also had two children. Like his fellow Whigs, including Abraham Lincoln, Gentry opposed the Mexican War and worried that the annexation of new territory would exacerbate sectional tensions. He unsuccessfully ran for governor of Tennessee, as a Know Nothing, against Andrew Johnson in 1855, after which he retired from political life. However, the secession crisis moved Gentry back into the political arena, and he served in the Confederate House of Representatives at least until 1862. Union forces captured him in 1864, but he was given permission by President Lincoln himself to return to the South.

Robert M. McBride and Dan M. Robison, eds., Biographical Directory of the Tennessee General Assembly (Nashville: Tennessee State Library and Archives and Tennessee Historical Commission, 1975), 1:279; Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996 (Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, 1997), 1083.