Confederate General, United States Senator
Loyal to the South as a United States Senator from Alabama, John Tyler Morgan
espoused expansionist policies in foreign affairs and cultivated a national
vision. His hallmarks as a national and sectional leader were courage and independence.
His father was George Morgan of New York and his mother was Frances Irby of Virginia. He was born in Athens, Tennessee, in 1824, but became a lifelong resident of Alabama after his family moved to Calhoun County in 1833. In 1845, he was admitted to the bar and in the next year he married Cornelia Willis of Talladega County. In 1855, he and his family moved to Selma where he resided until his death in 1907.
He entered the Confederate Army voluntarily as a private, but later in the war he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and after successful campaigns was made a Brigadier General. He was an active secessionist. Following the war in 1876, he became a United States Senator. He cast his first senate vote to confirm Frederick Douglass as a Marshall of the District of Columbia.
Early in his Senate career he was able to get legislation passed which turned over large coal and iron-laden tracts from the federal government to the University of Alabama.
He fought to reclaim unused land grants made to railroads (saving millions of dollars for the US Government), to deepen Mobile harbor, and to promote an Isthmian canal. He believed the canal would open trade for the South in Pacific markets. As chairman of the influential Foreign Relations Committee and the Committee on Canals, he was a central figure in the quest for an inter-oceanic canal. He favored the Nicaragua route over the Panama route, but came to support the latter, rather than allow the idea to die. He advocated statehood for Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii as a means to enhance southern strength in the senate. He supported antitrust legislation and occasionally opposed President Cleveland and supported Republican policies.
Though an intense southerner, his nationwide perspective made him a national figure.
John Tyler Morgan was inducted into the Alabama Men's Hall of Fame in 1991.