Richardson, William A. (Congressman)

Born: 1811-01-16 Fayette County, Kentucky

Died: 1875-12-27 Quincy, Illinois

Richardson attended Transylvania University but left during his junior year to become a schoolteacher. He only remained in that position one year before deciding to study law. He earned admittance to the bar in 1831 and began practicing law in Shelbyville, Illinois. The following year, he relocated to Rushville, where he began his own practice. Only two years later, Richardson earned appointment as states attorney for his district. A Democrat, he won election to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1836, where he served alongside Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. In January 1838, Richardson married Cornelia Sullivan. He ran for Illinois Senate in 1838 and won by a narrow margin. He only served one term and returned to his practice. Richardson returned to the General Assembly in 1844 and became speaker of the House.

Following the outbreak of the Mexican War, Richardson raised and served with a company, earning the rank of lieutenant-colonel before returning to Illinois in 1847. He almost immediately won nomination to the U.S. House of Representatives to fill the seat held by Douglas before he ascended to the Senate. Richardson carried the election by a large margin and remained in the House until 1856. In 1849, he ended his Rushville practice and relocated to Quincy where he became Douglas' primary lieutenant. After leaving the House, Richardson won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination but lost to William H. Bissell. Nevertheless, James Buchanan appointed Richardson governor of the Nebraska Territory. He returned to Illinois in 1858 and began maneuvering for Douglas' nomination for the 1860 presidential election. He campaigned vigorously for Douglas and again won election to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he remained until the General Assembly chose him to fill Douglas' old Senate seat in 1863. Richardson's term ended in 1865.

Robert D. Holt, "The Political Career of William A. Richardson," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 26 (October 1933), 222-69; Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, Adams County, 18 January 1838, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL.