James L. Orr | History of SC Slide Collection

James L. Orr
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Born in Craytonville, in the Pendleton District, Governor James L. Orr (1822-1873) was educated in local schools and later attended the University of Virginia to study law. After graduation, he returned to Anderson where he began his law practice and a newspaper, "The Gazette," which he published for a year. He was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1844, and then to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1848. As a member of the Southern Rights Convention at Charleston in 1832, Orr was opposed to secession as a policy, but maintained that the state possessed the constitutional right to secede if the action became necessary. After South Carolina seceded from the Union, he was a member of the Confederate States of America Senate from 1861 until the collapse of the Confederate government in 1865. Orr supported President Johnson's program of Reconstruction, and in 1865 was sent as a special commissioner to negotiate for a provisional government in South Carolina. Under the revised state constitution of 1865, Orr was elected to a 4 year term as governor. He was the first South Carolina governor to be elected by a direct popular vote. After the state went under military control, Orr was allowed to remain governor until June 1868, when a revised state constitution was put into effect. As governor, Orr favored giving African-Americans the right to vote, but only under strict eligibility rules, and opposed the ratification of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Ulysses S. Grant appointed Orr the U.S. Minister to Russia in 1872. He died in 1873, shortly after his arrival in St. Petersburg.

Courtesy of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.

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