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Edwin G. Reade, Confederate politician, was born on November 13, 1812, at Mount Tirzah, the son of Robert R. and Judith A. Reade. When Reade’s father died at an early age, the children had to seek work. By his fifteenth birthday, Edwin had worked as a farm laborer, tanner, and apprentice at a carriage shop. At age 18, he entered an academy in Orange County, followed by one in Granville. Evidently highly intelligent, Reade served as an associate teacher at the second school.
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After graduation from the Granville County school, Reade taught himself law, and opened a highly successful law practice in Roxboro. In 1855, Reade ran for a seat in the U. S. House of Representatives on the American Party ticket. Although a lifelong Whig, Reade was drawn to the American Party for its nativist, Anti-Catholic tenets. During his term, he witnessed Preston Brook’s caning of Charles Sumner, and was the only Southerner to join the vote censuring L. M. Keitt for attempting to prevent anyone from stopping the assault.
A staunch Unionist, Reade refused to become a candidate for the Secession Convention in 1861. He stood opposed to North Carolina’s entrance in the war, but in January 1864 accepted George Davis’s vacated seat in the Confederate senate upon the request of Governor Zebulon Vance. In the two short months he served as a Confederate politician, Reade demonstrated his allegiance to North Carolina by challenging what he perceived as Confederate encroachments on the state’s sovereignty. In a January 23 meeting with Jefferson Davis, Reade told him to “Trust North Carolina and let her alone.” He also called for separate peace negotiations with Federal authorities on the state’s behalf.
After his brief tour of service in the Confederate government, Reade attempted to run for the General Assembly but lost. In 1865 he was president of the Andrew Johnson Reconstruction convention, and was elected an associate justice of the state supreme court. He held the position until 1879, although he also served as a bank president and grandmaster of the Masonic order in Raleigh. Reade died on October 18, 1894, and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh. He left a widow, Mary Parmele, but no children.
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, V, 183-184—sketch Buck Yearns
Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States, IV (1904)
(Raleigh) News and Observer, October 19, 1894
Samuel A. Ashe, ed., Biographical Dictionary of North Carolina, II (1905)
Ezra J. Warner and W. Buck Yearns, Biographical Register of the Confederate Congress (1975)