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

 
 
 

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     Asa Biggs was a United States Senator, Congressman, and federal judge, as well as a prosperous lawyer in his hometown of Williamston. Biggs also served as a Confederate judge during the Civil War. In addition, Biggs served in the state Senate and the House of Commons for multiple terms. He was known for his staunch support of individual freedom and rights, reflected in his court rulings and legislative positions. His house, the oldest in Williamston, is on Church Street.

     Born in Williamston in 1811, Asa Biggs spent his childhood in Martin County. He was educated at Williamstown Academy, which was incorporated in 1820. His father was among the school’s founders. Young Biggs worked as a mercantile clerk and manager while reading law privately, and was admitted to the bar in 1831. In 1835, Asa Biggs represented Martin County at the state Constitutional Convention and there voted for planters’ interests. In 1840, Biggs was elected to the House of Commons. He served in the house and then the state senate until 1845, at which time the legislature elected him to the U. S. House of Representatives.

     Biggs served in the U. S. House until 1847, and in the United States Senate between 1855 and 1858. He resigned from his position as a senator in 1858, having never felt comfortable in Washington, to take an appointment to the federal district court. Biggs served as a judge until 1865, first as part of the Union and then as part of the Confederacy. A strong supporter of slavery and of individual rights, Biggs favored secession by the South in 1861, and acted as a delegate in the secession convention in 1861. He remained an avid backer of the Confederacy until its collapse in 1865. Biggs returned to practicing law after the end of the Civil War, working in Tarboro until 1869. He then moved to Norfolk with his brother and began a mercantile company. Biggs died in Norfolk in 1878 and is buried in that city’s Elmwood Cemetery.

     The home of Asa Biggs, built in 1835, has been restored by the Martin County Historical Association. The house is an unusual blend of both the Greek Revival and Federal styles. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and is open to the public for viewing.


References:
R. D. W. Connor, ed., Autobiography of Asa Biggs (1915)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, 151-152—sketch by Paul I. Chestnut
Catherine Bishir and Michael Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (1996)
Martin County Tourism Authority website: http://www.albemarle-nc.com/martin/history/biggs.htm
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north carolina highway historical marker program


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