Ritchie, Sr., Thomas (Editor)

Born: 1778-11-05 Essex County, Virginia

Died: 1854-07-03 Washington, DC

Thomas Ritchie, Sr. was a newspaper editor, printer, and publisher. Born in Tappahannock, Virginia, Ritchie experienced the death of his father at the age of six. After short stints pursuing law and then medicine, Ritchie became a teacher in Fredericksburg, Virginia. A strong supporter of Thomas Jefferson and his Democratic-Republican Party, Ritchie moved to Richmond in 1804 and purchased the Examiner, a local newspaper, which he renamed the Richmond Enquirer and transformed into a organ for Jefferson and his followers. Ritchie also became a leader of the Democratic-Republican Party in Virginia, becoming a member of the Richmond Junto, the leadership cadre for the Democratic-Republicans in the commonwealth. Ritchie became the chief spokesman for the states’ right tradition of the Jeffersonian Democrats and, as the Democratic-Republicans evolved into the Democratic Party, he became one of the most powerful advocates of the Democratic Party under Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren. Known as “Father Ritchie,” he remained the chief national spokesman for the Democratic Party and Van Buren until 1844, when he abandoned Van Buren to support James K. Polk for president. Ritchie edited and published the Richmond Enquirer until 1845 when he resigned and left the paper in the hands of two of his sons, Thomas Ritchie, Jr., and William F. Ritchie. Ritchie, Sr. then moved to Washington, DC to become the editor of the Washington Union, the administration organ for President Polk. Ritchie remained editor of the Washington Union until his retirement in 1851.

Ritchie married Isabella Foushee in February 1807 in Henrico County, Virginia. The couple had twelve children.

Charles Henry Ambler, Thomas Ritchie: A Study in Virginia Politics (Richmond: Bell Book & Stationery, 1913), 11-12, 19, 230, 257, 296; “Ritchie, Thomas,” James Grant Wilson and John Fiske, Appleton’s Cyclopædia of American Biography (New York: D. Appleton, 1888), 5:262; Joel H. Sibley, “Ritchie, Thomas,” American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 18:549-50; Virginia, U.S., Compiled Marriages, 1740-1850, 7 February 1807, Henrico County (Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, 1999); Gravestone, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA.