William Hunt

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Person.png William Hunt  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(lawyer, soldier)
William Hunt.jpg
BornJune 12, 1823
Charleston, South Carolina, US
DiedFebruary 27, 1884 (Age 60)
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Alma materYale University Law School
Founder ofOffice of Naval Intelligence

William Henry Hunt was the 29th United States Secretary of the Navy, Minister to the Russian Empire and a Judge of the Court of Claims.

Early life

Hunt was born on June 12, 1823, in Charleston, South Carolina,[1] He was the youngest of five sons born to Louisa (née Gaillard) Hunt (1786–1850), sister of U.S. Senator John Gaillard, and Thomas Hunt (1780–1830), who had been born in Nassau, Bahamas where his grandfather Robert Hunt held the position of Governor-General of the Bahamas for many years. His father was a member of the Louisiana State Legislature, a prominent lawyer, and a successful planter.[2] Among his siblings was Theodore Gaillard Hunt, a U.S. Representative from Louisiana, Randell Hunt, a Louisiana State Senator, Dr. Thomas Hunt Jr., a founder of the Medical College of Louisiana and president of the University of Louisiana (now Tulane University).

He attended Yale University and Yale Law School, then read law with Theodore Hunt and Randell Hunt in New Orleans, Louisiana.[1]


He entered private practice in New Orleans from 1844 to 1878.[1] He was an opponent of secession and a supporter of the Union, but had to serve as a colonel in the Confederate States Army in 1862.[1] He was an acting professor of civil law for the University of Louisiana (now Tulane University) in 1866.[1] He was Attorney General of Louisiana from 1876 to 1877.[1]

Federal judicial service

Hunt was nominated by President Rutherford B. Hayes on April 18, 1878, to a seat on the Court of Claims (later the United States Court of Claims) vacated by Judge Ebenezer Peck.[1] He was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 15, 1878, and received his commission the same day.[1] His service terminated on March 11, 1881, due to his resignation.[1][3]

Secretary of the Navy

Hunt served as United States Secretary of the Navy from 1881 to 1882, in the cabinets of President James A. Garfield and President Chester A. Arthur.[1] As a minister, he rendered great services to the navy, which had been noticeably neglected after the civil war. He convened the first Naval Advisory Board, which was given the task of reorganizing the Navy, which was not easy given public disinterest and a lack of funds.

Minister to Russia

Hunt served as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Russian Empire for the United States Department of State from 1882 to 1884.[1]

Personal life

Hunt was married to Elizabeth Ridgely Hunt (d. 1864), daughter of Commandant Charles Goodwin Ridgely and the former Cornelia Louisiana Livingston (a granddaughter of Walter Livingston and Chancellor Robert R. Livingston). Together, Elizabeth and William were the parents of seven children, six sons and one daughter, including:[4]

After the death of his first wife in 1864, he remarried to Sarah Harrison Barker (1819–1908), a daughter of New York merchant John T. Adams, in 1866.[2]

He died on February 27, 1884, in Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire.[2] His body was returned to the United States and after a funeral at St. John's Church in Washington, he was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington.[14]

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  1. a b c d e f g h i j k https://www.fjc.gov/history/judges/hunt-william-henry-0
  2. a b c https://www.nytimes.com/1884/02/28/archives/death-of-minister-hunt-his-career-in-public-and-private-life-a.html?searchResultPosition=5
  3. The United States Court of Claims : a history / pt. 1. The judges, 1855-1976 / by Marion T. Bennett / pt. 2. Origin, development, jurisdiction, 1855-1978 / W. Cowen, P. Nichols, M.T. Bennett. Washington, D.C.: Committee on the Bicentennial of Independence and the Constitution of the Judicial Conference of the United States. 1976
  4. Du Pont, Samuel Francis (1969). Hayes, John Daniel (ed.). Samuel Francis Du Pont: The repulse: 1863-1865. Samuel Francis Du Pont: A Selection from His Civil War Letters. Vol. 3. Eleutherian Mills Historical Library. p. 48.
  5. https://www.nytimes.com/1916/02/25/archives/obituary-1-no-title.html?searchResultPosition=2
  6. https://www.nytimes.com/1888/04/15/archives/mr-and-mrsthomas-hunt.html
  7. https://archive.org/details/historygenealogy01jewe
  8. {{URL|example.com|optional display text}}
  9. https://www.nytimes.com/1943/01/19/archives/rear-admiral-hunt-in-service-for-42-years-saw-action-in-spanish-war.html?searchResultPosition=1
  10. https://www.nytimes.com/1892/06/23/archives/in-honor-of-livingston-hunt.html?searchResultPosition=2
  11. https://www.nytimes.com/1953/02/26/archives/livingston-hunt-jr.html?searchResultPosition=1
  12. https://www.nytimes.com/1909/12/21/archives/exsenator-harris-of-kansas-dead-stricken-with-heart-disease-at-home.html?searchResultPosition=1}
  13. https://www.nytimes.com/1924/03/21/archives/gaillard-hunt-is-dead-prepared-history-of-the-world-war-for-state.html?searchResultPosition=1
  14. https://www.nytimes.com/1884/04/07/archives/the-late-minister-hunts-burial.html?searchResultPosition=1
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