Born: 1815-01-18 Warsaw, Kentucky
Died: 1873-11-27 Saint Louis, Missouri
Richard Yates moved from his native state to Sangamon County, Illinois, in 1831 and graduated from Illinois College in Jacksonville in 1835. He studied law with John J. Hardin in Jacksonville and at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. Yates began practicing law in 1837 in Jacksonville. In 1839, he married Catherine Geers, with whom he had five children. Yates served as a Whig in the Illinois House of Representatives from 1842 to 1846 and from 1848 to 1850. In 1850, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served until 1855. Yates then became president of the Tonica & Petersburg Railroad. With the demise of the Whig Party, Yates joined the Republicans. He supported John C. Fremont for president in 1856 and Abraham Lincoln for U.S. senator in 1858. Illinois voters elected Yates as a Republican to the office of governor of Illinois in 1860. As wartime governor, Yates was extremely firm in his support for the Union cause and the Republican Party. When the Democrat-led Illinois General Assembly threatened to compromise with the Confederacy in 1863, Yates prorogued the legislature until a Republican majority could be acquired the following year. He was especially energetic in raising troops and gave Ulysses S. Grant his first Civil War military appointment. Although a firm Republican, Yates frequently proved critical of Lincoln, considering the administration as overly soft on the southern rebels and slavery.
Robert P. Howard, Mostly Good and Competent Men: Illinois Governors, 1818-1988 (Springfield, IL: Illinois Issues, Sangamon State University and Illinois State Historical Society, 1988), 121-31; Leonard Schlup, "Yates, Richard," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 24:115-17; Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, Morgan County, 14 July 1839, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL.