James Lawrence Orr

43rd Governor of the State of South Carolina 1865 to 1868

Date Born: May 12, 1822

Date Died: May 5, 1873

Place Born: Craytonville, SC

Place Buried: Presbyterian Cemetery, Anderson, SC

Residence: Anderson District/County, SC

Occupation: Lawyer, Editor


University of Virginia at Charlottesville: Graduated 1842

South Carolina House of Representatives: 1844-1847

U.S. House of Representatives: 1849-1859

Confederate States Senate: 1862-1865

U.S. Minister to Russia: 1872-1873

1861 – Orr was one of three delegates sent to Washington, DC to avert war with the Union and arrange for the transfer of control of federal property in South Carolina to the state government

1865 – Orr was the first governor of South Carolina to be elected by popular vote


James Lawrence Orr was born on May 12, 1822, the son of Christopher and Martha (McCann) Orr, at Craytonville, Anderson County, SC. He graduated at the University of Virginia in 1842 and became an attorney. He opened his law office in 1843 at Anderson Court House (later, simply Anderson), and at the same time he established his own newspaper, The Anderson Gazette, which lasted about a year.

James Lawrence Orr married Mary Jane, daughter of Dr. Samuel Marshall, in November of 1843

In 1844, James Lawrence Orr was first elected to represent the Pendleton District (a voting district that included the Anderson District and Pickens District of the time) in the House of Representatives of the:
- 36th General Assembly that met from 1844-1845
- 37th General Assembly that met from 1846-1847

He served as a Democratic U.S. Congressman from South Carolina from 1849 to 1859, serving as the Speaker of the House from 1857 to 1859. Congressman Orr was an advocate of states' rights who used his position of power to assist those persons who promoted the continuation of slavery. He opposed the annexation of Utah and New Mexico, and the admission of California into the Union, and resisted all compromise measures except the Fugitive Slave Law.

When the Anti-Catholic, Know-Nothing movement swept the nation in 1854, James Lawrence Orr and Stephen A. Douglas were the first prominent men in America to take a strong stand against it.

He foresaw the consequences of the decision by South Carolina to attempt to secede from the Union, but he remained loyal to that state. He was one of the three Commissioners sent to Washington, DC to negotiate the transfer of federal property to the state of South Carolina; the failure of these negotiations led directly to the bombardment of one of the highest-profile federal assets within South Carolina, Fort Sumter.

After seizing Fort Sumter and the outbreak of the American Civil War, the former U.S. Congressman organized and commanded Orr's Regiment of South Carolina Rifles, which saw little action before he resigned in 1862 and entered the Confederate Senate. Ironically, the regiment continued to bear his name throughout the war and fought in some of the most prominent battles of the Army of Northern Virginia. In the Senate, he remained a strong proponent of states' rights.

At the end of the war, James Lawrence Orr was elected Governor in 1865 of the state of South Carolina and served until 1868 with the passage of a new state Constitution. He died on May 5, 1873 in St. Petersburg, Russia shortly after being named Minister to Russia by President Ulysses S. Grant in December of 1872. His remains were shipped home and he was interred in the First Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Anderson, SC.


James Lawrence Orr, a U.S. Representative from South Carolina; born in Craytonville, Anderson County, SC, May 12, 1822; attended the public schools, and was graduated from the University of Virginia at Charlottesville in 1842; studied law; was admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Anderson, SC, in 1843; engaged in newspaper work; member of the State House of Representatives 1844-1847; elected as a Democrat to the Thirty-first and to the four succeeding U.S. Congresses (March 4, 1849-March 3, 1859); chairman, Committee on Indian Affairs (Thirty-third Congress); Speaker of the House of Representatives (Thirty-fifth Congress); was not a candidate for renomination in 1858; resumed the practice of law at Craytonville; member of the Southern Rights Convention held in Charleston, SC, in 1851; delegate to the Democratic National Convention at Charleston in 1860; member of the Secession Convention in 1860; one of three commissioners sent to Washington, DC, to treat with the Federal Government for the surrender of the forts in Charleston Harbor; Member of the Confederate Senate in 1861; served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War; special commissioner sent to President Andrew Johnson to negotiate the establishment of provisional government for the State of South Carolina in 1865; member of the State Constitutional Convention in 1865; elected Governor of South Carolina as a Republican in 1866; President of the State Convention at Columbia in July 1866; delegate to the Union National Convention at Philadelphia in August 1866; Judge of the 8th Judicial Circuit 1868-1870; member of the Republican State Convention in August 1872; delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1872; appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant as Minister to Russia in December 1872; died in St. Petersburg, Russia, May 5, 1873; interment in the Presbyterian Cemetery, Anderson, SC.

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