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



Marker Text:

      Lawmaker William Theophilius Dortch was born to William and Druscilla Dortch on August 23, 1824. Growing up on the old family plantation near Rocky Mount, Dortch attended local schools before entering Hillsborough Academy. In 1845, after reading law with Bartholomew F. Moore in Halifax, he launched a law practice in Nashville. Three years later he moved to Goldsboro to practice law in the new county of Wayne. There he established a thriving business and plantation.

      Dortch was elected to represent Wayne County in the General Assembly in 1852, 1854, 1858, and 1860. During the latter term he served as Speaker of the House. Seen as a moderate candidate, Dortch, pro-secessionist yet with affection for the Union, was appointed to the Confederate Senate in 1861 and served in both Confederate Congresses. After the war, Wayne County returned Dortch to the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1874. He was elected to the state senate in 1876 but resigned from that office in 1877 at which time he was appointed a director of the Western North Carolina Railroad. Dortch again served in the state senate from 1879 to 1883, elected President Pro Tem of that body in 1881. Thus, if only for brief periods, Dortch presided over both houses of the North Carolina General Assembly.

      In 1881 Dortch was appointed to chair a commission of three men charged with revising the North Carolina Code, the first such compilation of laws since the state constitution of 1875. Completed in 1883, the code stood until further revised in 1905. William T. Dortch suffered a stroke in 1889 and died on November 21 of that year. He was buried in Willow Dale Cemetery in Goldsboro.

William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, II, 95—sketch by Buck Yearns
Henry Groves Connor, Address of Hon. Henry G. Connor, Presenting the Portrait of Hon. William T. Dortch to the Supreme Court of North Carolina (1911)
Bob Johnson and Charles S. Norwood, eds., History of Wayne County, North Carolina: A Collection of Historical Stories (1979
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north carolina highway historical marker program

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