William A. Wheeler Biography, Life, Interesting Facts
William A. Wheeler was an American politician and the 19th Vice President of the United States of American. Born on June 30, 1819, William A. Wheeler served in that capacity from 1877 to 1881 under Rutherford B. Hayes administration. Before rising to that position, William A. Wheeler served as the New York State Senate Representative in 1858 and 1959. From March 4, 1861, to March 3, 1863, William A. Wheeler served as a Republican in the 37th United States Congress. William A. Wheeler again served as a congressman at the 41st Congress to the 44th congress from 1899 to 1877, serving as chairman of different committees. William A. Wheeler was an advocate for racial equality during his political career.
William A. Wheeler was born on June 30, 1819, in Malone, New York William A. Wheeler, and Elizabeth Woodworth. William A. Wheeler received his education at the Franklin Academy. Growing up, William A. Wheeler went into farming in order to earn enough money to further his education. William A. Wheeler enrolled at the University of Vermont at age 19 but was forced to drop out due to financial issues. William A. Wheeler would, however, continued to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1976, which made him a graduate of the class of 1842. William A. Wheeler then studied law under Asa Hascall, a Malone attorney and politician who was a district attorney, justice of the peace, town supervisor and also a member of the New York State Assembly. In 1845, William A. Wheeler was called to the bar and started his law practice in Melon.
Being called to the bar in 1845, William A. Wheeler became the District Attorney of Franklin County in 1846 and served until 1849. From 1850 to 1851 William A. Wheeler served as a member of the Assembly for Franklin County. In 1858, William A. Wheeler was elected as a New York Senate Representative for a one term ending in 1859. Wheeler served in the 37th United States Congress as a Republican from March 4, 1861, to March 3, 1863. After being voted out, William A. Wheeler returned again and was elected to serve in the 41st State Congress onMarch 4, 1869, up until the 44th Congress which ended on March 3, 1877.
During the 42nd, he was appointed as chairman of the Committee on Pacific Railroads. William A. Wheeler also served as the chairman of the Committee of Commerce during the 43rd Congress. Wheeler discharged his duties diligently and built a high reputation for honesty for himself. His high credentials were acknowledged by Allan Nevins, during his introduction toJohn F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage. Roscoe Conkling, a Senator and political boss once confronted Wheeler saying, “William A. Wheeler, if you will act with us, there is nothing in the gift of the State of New York to which you may not reasonably aspire.” Wheeler replied him with, "Mr. Conkling, there is nothing in the gift of the State of New York which will compensate me for the forfeiture of my self-respect."
William A. Wheeler showed any class of honesty and diligence in 1873, by voting against a pay rise which was to be retrospective for five years according to the Salary Grab Act. Even though the Act was passed, William A. Wheeler returned all the salary increased to the Treasury Department. Other position held by Wheeler includes the President of the New York Northern Railroad the President of the New York State Constitutional Convention from June 1867 to February 1868. During his acceptance speech for the latter position, he sought to highlight the importance of racial equality.
William A. Wheeler said that, "[W]e owe it to the cause of universal civil liberty, we owe it to the struggling liberalism of the old world,...that every man within New York, of whatever race or color, or however poor, helpless, or lowly he may be, in virtue of his manhood, is entitled to the full employment of every right appertaining to the most exalted citizenship."
Election Of 1876
William A. Wheeler was a member of the delegates for the 1876 Republican National Convention that nominated Rutherford B. Hayes for President on the seventh ballot. Afterwards, William A. Wheeler became the preferred choice for the vice presidential nomination, because his diligent service in politics had made him no or fewer enemies. However, Roscoe Conkling had another choice being Stewart L. Woodford, a former congressman from New York. The congressman for Vermont, Luke P. Poland nominated William A. Wheeler for the position during the convention to nominate a vice-presidential candidate.
William A. Wheeler immediately took the lead over the other candidates including Woodford who later redrew as it had become obvious that the votes were going for Wheeler William A. Wheeler took the lead, receiving 366 votes with his closest rival Frederick T. Frelinghuysen, having 89 of the votes. After Rutherford B. Hayes heard that William A. Wheeler had taken the lead, he wrote to his wife Lucy saying, "I am ashamed to say: Who is William A. Wheeler?" Both candidates were not familiar with each other because they served in different periods in the House of Representatives.
On March 4, 1877, William A. Wheeler was officially inaugurated as Vice President and served until March 4, 1881. As a widower with his wife dying just a year before he took office,William A. Wheeler became a frequent guest at the White House's alcohol-free luncheons. Being the vice president, he was in charge of Senate. Rutherford B. Hayes I his remark praised William A. Wheeler as "one of the few Vice Presidents who were on cordial terms, intimate and friendly, with the President. Our family was heartily fond of him."William A. Wheeler retired from politics after their term of office expired.
William A. Wheeler lost his wife a year before he took office as the Vice President. He died on June 4, 1887, 26, few days before his 68th birthday in his Malone, New York home. William A. Wheeler was buried next to his wife in Malone's Morningside Cemetery on June 7, 1887, and his funeral held at the Congregational church in Malone.
The Dartmouth College awarded William A. Wheeler an honorary degree of masters of arts in 1865. He also received an honorary LL.D from the University of Vermont in 1867 and from the Union College in 1877.