Born in Charleston in 1806, William Aiken (1806-1887) attended Hurlburt School and the South Carolina College. After receiving an inheritance from his father, he became a successful rice planter on Jehossee Island, near Charleston. His political career began when Aiken was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1838, and then to the state Senate in 1842. He resigned from the Senate after his election as governor in 1844. From 1851 to 1857, Aiken was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Aiken opposed the secession of South Carolina from the Union in 1860 and took a neutral stand when the Civil War began. However, he later supported the Confederate cause by donating supplies and large bond subscriptions. When he declined to attend the ceremony raising the U.S. flag over Fort Sumter after it was retaken by Union forces, he was arrested by the order of U.S. Secretary of War Stanton and was taken to Washington, D.C. Aiken gained his release by appealing personally to President Andrew Johnson, who had been a colleague in Congress. He was elected to Congress again in 1866, but was denied his seat by the Northern members of the assembly. Aiken died at Flat Rock, North Carolina, in 1887.
Courtesy of the South Caroliniana Library.