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James Iredell Jr. (1788-1853) was born in Edenton on November 2, 1788, to parents of the highest social and political standing. His father, James Iredell Sr., was a prominent Federalist leader and an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. His mother, the former Hannah Johnston, was the sister of Governor Samuel Johnston of Edenton and niece of royal governor Gabriel Johnston. Because young Iredell was only ten years of age when his father died, it is probable that his uncle Samuel, the former governor, exercised a powerful and lasting influence over the boy’s development.
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Iredell received his early education locally at Edenton Academy. Later he attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), from which he graduated in 1806. Returning to North Carolina, he pursued the study of law and was admitted to the bar in 1809. During the War of 1812 he commanded a company of volunteers in the defense of Norfolk; and in 1815 he was commissioned a brigadier general in the North Carolina militia. In 1813 he was elected from Edenton to the lower house of the General Assembly, where he again represented the town from 1816 to 1820 and from 1823 to 1828. During five of the legislative sessions, he served as either speaker or speaker pro tempore. On December 8, 1827, he took office as governor following his election by his fellow assemblymen, but less than a year later resigned to fill the United States Senate seat vacated by Nathaniel Macon, patriarch of North Carolina’s congressional delegation.
Following his single term in the United States Senate, Iredell returned to North Carolina and established a law practice in Raleigh. During the next quarter century he served as a commissioner to revise the state’s laws, reported cases for the North Carolina Supreme Court, conducted a law school, and published an authoritative three-volume digest of court cases in the state from 1778 to 1845. James Iredell’s wife was the former Francis Johnston Treadwell of Edenton. Their marriage produced seven children. Iredell died in Edenton on April 13, 1853, and was buried in the Johnston family cemetery at Hayes Plantation.
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, III, 255—sketch by Beth Crabtree
Robert Sobel and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, III (1978)
James Iredell Sr. and James Iredell Jr. Papers, Duke University, Durham
Iredell Family Papers, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh Charles E. Johnson Collection, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh