Name:  William Almon Wheeler

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Born:  June 30, 1819
Died:  June 4, 1887
Complete HarpWeek Biography:
William Wheeler was a congressman and vice-president of the United States. He was born in Malone, New York, to Eliza Woodworth Wheeler and Almon Wheeler, a family whose lineage could be traced to early Puritan New England. In 1827 Almon Wheeler died without leaving an estate, forcing Eliza Wheeler to board students in order to support her own children. Young Wheeler worked his way through the same academy as the boarders, then matriculated at the University of Vermont for two years (1838-1840). His poverty during his college years once compelled him to live on bread and water for six weeks and, along with an eye affliction, caused him to leave the university. Back in Malone, he took up the study of law and became a member of the New York bar in 1845. Later that year he married Mary King. He built a prosperous law practice before he retired after six years to become a bank manager, then trustee and business manager of the Northern Railway in 1853.

Wheeler also entered politics in the mid-1840s, migrating from the Whig to the new Republican party in 1855. He served as Franklin county district attorney, 1846-1849; state assemblyman, 1850-1851; state senator, 1858-1860; and U.S. representative, 1861-1863 and 1866-1877. In 1874 he was appointed to a special Congressional committee charged with investigating a disputed Louisiana election and proposed the compromise solution, known as the "Wheeler adjustment." He built a reputation for integrity, but was undistinguished as a legislator and little known outside of New York. When the Republican National Convention nominated him for vice president in 1876, the presidential nominee, Rutherford B. Hayes, wrote to his wife: "I am ashamed to say, Who is Wheeler?" After an unexceptional term as vice president, Wheeler retired from public life. he died in 1887, leaving most of his estate to Christian missions abroad.

Source consulted: Dictionary of American Biography; William A. DeGregorio, The Complete Book of Presidents.











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