George H. Williams
Marion County delegate
George Henry Williams was born in New Lebanon, New York on March 26, 1823. As a young man he studied law and in 1844 he was admitted to the New York bar. In 1852, President Zachary Taylor appointed him to serve as chief justice of the Supreme Court of Oregon Territory. He arrived in Salem in 1853. President James Buchanan reappointed him to the court in 1857.
Williams was a delegate from Marion County to the constitutional convention and was chairman of the Committee on Judiciary and served on the Committee on Corporations and Internal Improvements. Nearly 50 years after the convention in an address to the legislature Williams recounted some of the activities surrounding the convention. He concluded his remarks by saying, “I trust those who come forward to take our places will think kindly of what we have done and strive to improve upon our work.”
Williams left the bench and went into private practice in Portland in 1859. Although he had been a Democrat during his early career, in 1865 he joined the Republican Party. That same year he was elected as a U.S. senator and served until 1871. In 1873, President Ulysses S. Grant made him the U.S. Attorney General, a position he held until 1877. During this time, he authored what would become the 14th amendment to the U. S. Constitution. He returned to Portland where he practiced law and served two terms as mayor, from 1902 to 1905. Williams died in Portland on April 4, 1910.