Willie (pronounced “Wylie”) Person Mangum, long a powerful United States Senator, was born at Red Mountain in Orange (now Durham) County in 1792. Mangum received his preparatory education from a mixture of home school and academies in Hillsborough, Fayetteville, and Raleigh. In 1815, Mangum graduated from the University of North Carolina after which he continued to study law under Duncan Cameron while also tutoring the Cameron children. In 1817 he was admitted to the bar and began to practice law.
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In 1818 Mangum was to the House of Commons representing Orange County. During his term he promoted the issue of constitutional reform, earning him great support from western North Carolina. Also in 1819, he married Sarah (Alston) Cain of Orange County and together they had five children. In 1823, Mangum was elected as a member of the Whig Party to the first of two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In 1831 Mangum was elected to the United States Senate, where he strongly contested the protective tariff and was a supporter of states rights. In 1833 he voted against the Force Bill which established his complete break with President Andrew Jackson. In 1836 Mangum resigned from the Senate, in part over the issue of whether state legislatures could instruct Senators on how to vote. In 1837 Mangum received the eleven electoral votes of South Carolina for President, likely as a reward for his perceived stance on nullification. That same year, he again elected as a Whig to the United States Senate.
With the death of President William Henry Harrison and the rise of Vice-President John Tyler to the Presidency in 1842, Mangum, as President pro tempore of the Senate, for several months was second in line to the White House. In 1852 he declined the Whig nomination for Vice-President. Because of increasing poor health, Mangum retired to his “Walnut Hall” home in 1856 but soon after suffered a stroke from which he never recovered.
On July 21, 1861, Mangum’s only son, William Preston Mangum, the apple of his eye, was an early casualty of the Civil War. The aging politician chose a burial place about one-half mile behind their home. The spot, in time the resting place for others in the family, is now managed by North Carolina State University at part of the Hill Forest. The elder Mangum died on September 7, 1861.
“Biography Directory of US Congress: 1774-Present” online at: http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=m000096
Henry Thomas Shanks, ed., The Papers of Willie Person Mangum, 5 vols. (1950-1956)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, IV, 208—sketch by William S. Powell
Michael Hill, “The Mangum Family Cemetery” (unpublished research report, North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1984)
Willie P. Mangum (portrait by James Reid Lambdin)