William Dunlap Simpson

48th Governor of the State of South Carolina 1879 to 1880

Date Born: October 27, 1823

Date Died: December 26, 1890

Place Born: Laurens District, SC

Place Buried: Laurens Cemetery in Laurens, SC

Residence: Laurens District, SC

Lt. Colonel in
Confederate Army

South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina): Graduated 1843

Harvard Law School: Withdrew after one session

South Carolina House of Representatives: 1854-1855, 1858-1859

South Carolina Senate: 1860-1863

Confederate States House of Representatives: 1863-1865

Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina: 1876-1879

Governor of South Carolina: 1879-1880

Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court: 1880-1890 (resigned governorship)

The son of Dr. John Wells Simpson and Elizabeth (Satterwhite) Simpson, born on October 27, 1823 in Laurens District, SC, William Dunlap Simpson was initially educated at the Laurens Male Academy. He attended the South Carolina College (later the University of South Carolina), completing his studies in 1843, and spent one term at Harvard Law School.

Illness forced him to return home, where he read law under Henry Clinton Young, and passed the SC bar in November of 1845. He practiced law at Laurens Court House (later, just Laurens), first with his partner (and father-in-law) Henry Clinton Young, and later with his brother, John Wistar Simpson.

On March 25, 1847, William Dunlap Simpson married Jane Elizabeth Young, daughter of Henry Clinton and Lucy Young. They had eight known children.

In 1854, William Dunlap Simpson was first elected to represent the Laurens District in the House of Representatives of the:
- 41st General Assembly that met from 1854-1855
- 43rd General Assembly that met from 1858-1859

In 1860, William Dunlap Simpson was first elected to represent the Laurens District in the SC Senate of the:
- 44th General Assembly that met from 1860-1861
- 45th General Assembly that met from 1862-1863

In the last assembly above, Dunlap resigned after the first session to take his seat in the Confederate House of Representatives (1863-1865).

After South Carolina seceded from the Union, William Dunlap Simpson joined the Confederate Army and was present at the siege of Fort Sumter in April of 1861. He was soon made Aide-de-Camp to Brig. Gen. Milledge Luke Bonham and was at the battle of First Bull Run, where he displayed great courage. In July of 1861, he was elected Major of the 11th Regiment of SC Volunteers, one of the five regiments raised by the state. In the Spring of 1862, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and after serving on the coast of SC, he was, with his regiment, attached to Brig. Gen. John Gregg's Brigade in Virginia and participated in the Peninsular and Maryland campaigns.

When Brig. Gen. Milledge Luke Bonham was elected as governor of South Carolina in 1862, Lt. Col. William Dunlap Simpson was elected to succeed him in the Confederate House of Representatives, which he retained from 1863-1865.

After the American Civil War, William Dunlap Simpson returned to practice law at Laurens Court House. In 1868, he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention held in New York City. Also in 1868, he was elected to represent the 4th District of South Carolina in the U.S. Congress, but he was denied his seat.

In 1876, without his knowledge, he was nominated, then elected Lieutenant Governor under Col. Wade Hampton, III. By virtue of this office, he was President of the SC Senate and acted in that capacity during the chaos that was rampant when Gov. Daniel Henry Chamberlain attempted to keep the governorship from Wade Hampton, III.

After Gov. Wade Hampton, III resigned to assume his U.S. Senate seat, William Dunlap Simpson was elevated to become the next governor of South Carolina. His focus while in office was the advancement of the interests of the people of South Carolina. He advised the passage of the Stock Law Act and the re-opening of the South Carolina College. He was also instrumental in making the college into the University of South Carolina, which took a few more years to materialize.

On December 18, 1879, William Dunlap Simpson resigned the governorship prior to the end of his term after being appointed Chief Justice of the SC Supreme Court, in which he served until his death on December 26, 1890 in Columbia, SC. He was buried at the Laurens Cemetery.

William Dunlap Simpson was born in Laurens District, SC. After receiving a bachelor's degree from South Carolina College in 1843, he attended Harvard Law School briefly and went on to complete his legal studies in a South Carolina law office. He practiced law in Laurens from 1846 to 1875, and was a trustee of Wadsworth Fund and a trustee of South Carolina College from 1877 to 1890. He served in the South Carolina House of Representatives for several non-consecutive terms in the 1850s. During the Civil War, he was appointed a Major and promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, helping to organize the 14th South Carolina Volunteers. He also served in the Confederate States House of Representatives from 1863 to 1865. After the war ended he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives but was denied his seat by Radical Republicans. In 1876, without his knowledge, he was nominated for Lieutenant Governor with Governor Wade Hampton, III. He took the oath of office as governor the day that Hampton resigned due to being elected to the U.S. Senate. As governor, Simpson promoted progressive education legislation and the establishment of an agricultural bureau for the state. After resigning as governor he was appointed Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court, a post that he held until his death.

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