Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 376

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 376


This is the grave of William Pinkney Whyte

Born in Baltimore in 1824, Whyte was named for his grandfather, former attorney general William Pinkney, who served under James Madison. However, he seems to have hated his parents, as he later changed his name from “White” to “Whyte” to separate himself from the rest of his family. The family was downwardly mobile by the 1840s, and while he grew up being an educated by a tutor who had previously been Napoleon’s personal secretary, he lacked the money to go to college. But for someone with the right connections and who was ambitious, this wasn’t per se a barrier to success at this time. Having both of those things, he managed to study law while working at a banking firm and managed to get into Harvard Law in 1844. His ambition was about more than the law. He was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1846. He ran in 1850 for Congress, but lost. He tried again in 1856 and lost again, claiming voter fraud. He went back to practicing law for over a decade. But a confirmed Democrat and Maryland insider, he was appointed to replace the resigning Reverdy Johnson in the Senate in 1868. He was just finishing the term, so he had only one goal: defending Andrew Johnson from Republicans who cared about black rights. Whyte did not care about black rights, to say the least.

In 1872, Whyte became governor of Maryland. Democrats were on the rise nationally during these years, as the North turned its back on Reconstruction. He left that position to return to the Senate for a full term after the 1874 midterms. Other than the usual position of a Democrat during these years of undermining black rights, his big issue was maintaining gold-only coinage (no future Populist he!) and he was the chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Printing. Please, try to hold back your excitement. He seems to have wanted a second term, but in the vagaries of politics when the Senate was chose by state legislatures, a different faction of the party elected Arthur Gorman. Instead, he became mayor of Baltimore. He served a two-year term, went back to his law for a few years, then became the state’s attorney general between 1887 and 1891. In 1906, he was again appointed to fill a Senate term, this time after the death of Gorman. He thus holds the record for the longest gap between time in the Senate, at over 25 years. He stayed in the seat until his death in 1908, at the age of 83. This may be the most exciting thing about him.

William Pinkney Whyte is buried in Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland.

This grave visit was sponsored by LGM readers, although he was not the reason I visited this cemetery. If you would like this series to visit other Maryland senators, and honestly, I’m not sure why you really would, you can contribute to cover the required expenses here. Arthur Gorman is buried in Washington, D.C. and John Walter Smith, who replaced Whyte upon his death, is buried is Snow Hill, Maryland. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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