north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



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    James Dobbin served state and country as a legislator, congressman, and as secretary of the Navy. Born on January 12, 1814, in Fayetteville, Dobbin entered the University of North Carolina at age fourteen and graduated with honors in 1832. He returned to Fayetteville where he read law with Judge Robert Strange. Dobbin was admitted to the bar in 1835, launched his law practice, and began to participate in local politics. Having declined to run for political office, Dobbin unwittingly was nominated for Congress by the Democrats. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1845 and served the term but refused to run for reelection. Instead he turned his attention to the North Carolina House of Commons, to which he was immediately elected. His poignant speech in 1848 supporting the establishment of a hospital for the insane resulted in a favorable action being taken by the General Assembly. Dobbin was reelected and appointed Speaker of the House for 1850-1852.

    At the 1852 Democratic National Convention, Dobbin nominated relatively unknown Franklin Pierce for president. Dobbin’s speech at the convention and his later support for Pierce during the campaign earned him the appointment as Secretary of the Navy. He worked to reform and expand the Navy, making it a more efficient and effective military branch. Dobbin, as a firm believer in a strong Navy as insurance for peace, during his tenure put eighteen ships, including six steam-powered frigates, into service. He also maintained support for exploratory voyages, such as Commodore Matthew Perry’s expedition to Japan which resulted in a treaty with that country, signed in 1854. The four years that Dobbin spent as Secretary of the Navy took a heavy toll on his fragile health. Five months after leaving office, August 4, 1857, James Dobbin died in Fayetteville. He is buried at Cross Creek Cemetery.

William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, II, 82-83—sketch by H. Thomas Kearney Jr.
Henry Elliot Shepherd, “James Cochran Dobbin, Secretary of the Navy in the Cabinet of President Pierce 1853-1857,” North Carolina Booklet (1916): 17-31
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north carolina highway historical marker program

James C. Dobbin

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources