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Nathan Goff, Jr. (February 9, 1843 – April 24, 1920) was a member of the United States Congress from West Virginia, who also served briefly as United States Secretary of the Navy during the Rutherford B. Hayes administration.


Goff was born at The Waldomore in Clarksburg, Harrison County, Virginia (now West Virginia) on February 9, 1843. He attended the Northwestern Academy in Clarksburg and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., then received a law degree from the City University of New York.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Goff enlisted in the Union Army as part of the Third Regiment of Virginia Volunteer Infantry, later becoming a major in the [West] Virginia Volunteer Cavalry.

In 1865, he was admitted to the bar and established a legal practice, while also becoming a prominent in West Virginia politics as a Republican. He served in the state House of Delegates from 1867-1868. In 1868 he became United States Attorney for West Virginia, a position he held until 1881 when he was appointed Secretary of the Navy by President Hayes, to succeed Richard W. Thompson of Indiana. Goff held the position just under two months, from January 7, 1881 until Hayes' term ended on March 4.

After leaving the Navy Department, Goff was reappointed U.S. Attorney for West Virginia. He held this post until 1882, when he was elected as a Republican to Congress. Two previous attempts had failed, in 1870 and 1874. He had also made an unsuccessful bid for Governor of West Virginia, in 1876.

He served in the House of Representatives from March 4, 1883 through March 3, 1889, as a member of the 48th-50th Congresses. He was not a candidate for renomination in 1888, choosing instead to make another run for governor. The governor's was hard fought battle and when the original tally came in Goff had won ,but the election was to close and Aretas B. Flemming contested the election. after numerous recounts and a point where four men took the oath of office claiming they had the rights to the governorship,the election came down to a vote by the legislature. The heavily democratic legislature declared Flemming the Democrat the victor and Goff had suffered defeat again. In later years Goff would say that the governorship was a graveyard position and that most men in that position fade away into obscurity.

From 1892 to 1913 Goff served as a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, then was elected as a Republican to the United States Senate in 1912. He did not immediately take his seat when the Senate convened on March 4, 1913, preferring to remain on the bench. He served from April 1 to March 3, 1919, choosing not to run for reelection in 1918.

He died in Clarksburg, West Virginia on April 23, 1920 and was interred in the Odd Fellows Cemetery. He was the last surviving member of the Hayes Cabinet.

Goff established something of a political dynasty, with several family members also serving in Congress. His son Guy Despard Goff (1866–1933) served in the U.S. Senate as a Republican from 1925-1931. His granddaughter Louise Goff Reece, daughter of Guy D. Goff, served in the House of Representatives as a Republican from 1961-1963.


The World War II destroyer USS Goff (DD-247) was named in his honor.

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Template:Start box |- ! colspan="3" style="background: #bebebe; color: #000000" | Government offices

|- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align:center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by
Richard W. Thompson |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|United States Secretary of the Navy
January 7, 1881 – March 4, 1881 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"| Succeeded by
William H. Hunt |- |- ! colspan="3" style="background: #cccccc" | United States House of Representatives Template:USRepSuccessionBox |- ! colspan="3" style="background: #cccccc" | United States Senate Template:U.S. Senator box |} Template:USSecNavy Template:USSenWV Template:Hayes cabinet

PD-icon This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

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