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George Wythe Randolph

George Wythe Randolph (1818-1867) was Thomas Jefferson's grandson, the youngest child of Martha Jefferson Randolph and Thomas Mann Randolph. "Geordie" was born at Monticello and named for George Wythe, Jefferson's law mentor.

From age eight, George was educated in Massachusetts, under the care of his sister Ellen Randolph Coolidge. He enlisted as a teenager in the United States Navy and served throughout the 1830s as a midshipman. Late in the decade, he entered the University of Virginia and in 1840 graduated with a Bachelor of Law degree. He practiced law in Albemarle County for ten years, before moving to Richmond in 1851. On April 20, 1852, Randolph married Mary Elizabeth Adams Pope, a wealthy widow, and took up residence in one of Richmond's elite neighborhoods. The couple had no children.

Randolph maintained a successful law practice in Richmond and, assuming civic responsibility, became an officer of the Virginia Historical Society. In 1858, as national politics grew more and more heated, he took up a position on Richmond's City Council. The following year, in response to John Brown's raid at Harper's Ferry, Randolph founded the Richmond Howitzer Company.1 Subsequently, he was elected to the Virginia Convention of 1861 as a secessionist.

Commissioned a major in the Virginia militia, Randolph rose to the rank of Confederate Brigadier General. In March 1862, he was appointed third Confederate secretary of war. Randolph soon found himself in constant conflict with Jefferson Davis. The poor working relationship, and his own ill health, led Randolph to resign on November 15, 1862.

Randolph died of tuberculosis at Edgehill on April 3, 1867, and was buried in the family cemetery at Monticello.

Further Sources

  • 1. The Richmond Howitzers now comprise a unit in the Virginia National Guard. See "Richmond Howitzers," Encyclopedia Virginia (Charlottesville: Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 2008-) (article published October 5, 2009, and last modified September 22, 2014).
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