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David McKendree Key
David M. Key

27th United States Postmaster General
In office
March 12, 1877 – August 25, 1880
Preceded by James N. Tyner
Succeeded by Horace Maynard

Born January 27, 1824(1824-01-27)
Greeneville, Tennessee, U.S.
Died February 3, 1900 (aged 76)
Chattanooga, Tennessee, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Lenoir Key
Alma mater Hiwassee College
Profession Lawyer, Politician
Military service
Service/branch Confederate States Army
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Unit 43rd Tennessee Regiment
Battles/wars American Civil War

David McKendree Key (January 27, 1824 – February 3, 1900) was a Democratic U.S. Senator from Tennessee from 1875 to 1877 as well as the U.S. Postmaster General under President Hayes.


Key was born in Greene County, Tennessee, the son of Reverend John and Margaret (Armitage) Key. In 1826 the family removed to Monroe County where Key was reared, graduating from Hiwassee College in 1850. He selected the legal profession as his vocation through life, and the same year of his graduation was admitted to the bar. For two years he practiced law at Madisonville, then a short time at Kingston, and in February, 1853, moved permanently to Chattanooga. In 1857 Key married Elizabeth Lenoir, with whom he had nine children.

When the Civil War broke out, Key enlisted in the Forty-third Confederate Tennessee Regiment of Infantry, served until the close of the war, and was mustered out as a lieutenant colonel. He then resumed the practice of law until 1868.

Key was a member of the Tennessee state constitutional convention of 1870, which composed the basic instrument of government of the state still in effect, and in August of the same year was elected chancellor of the Chattanooga (3rd) division. He maintained his chancellorship during an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. House in 1872 but he resigned in 1875 to accept the appointment by governor of Tennessee James D. Porter to a vacant Senate seat caused by the death of Andrew Johnson. Defeated in the next election in the Tennessee General Assembly, in 1877 he was appointed Postmaster General by President Hayes, and filled the office until August 25, 1880. His appointment to the position of Postmaster General was a part of the Compromise of 1877 to ensure Democratic power in the Republican cabinet. Later he accepted appointment as a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee and the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. He died in Chattanooga and is buried there.

See also[]

  • List of United States political appointments that crossed party lines
  • David McK. Key‎


  • David M. Key at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress Retrieved on 2008-02-13
  • Goodspeed Publishing, History of East Tennessee, Hamilton County. (1887)
  • Dictionary of American Biography
  • Abshire, David. The South Rejects a Prophet: The Life of David Key. New York: F.A. Praeger, 1967.
  • Murrin, John M. Liberty, Equality, Power. Fourth Edition. Australia: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005.
Government offices
Preceded by
James N. Tyner
United States Postmaster General
1877 – 1880
Succeeded by
Horace Maynard
United States Senate
Preceded by
Andrew Johnson
Senator from Tennessee (Class 1)
Served alongside: Henry Cooper
Succeeded by
James E. Bailey

Template:USSenTN Template:USPostGen Template:Hayes cabinet

de:David M. Key it:David McKendree Key ja:デイヴィッド・マッケンドリー・キー sv:David M. Key