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William Alexander Richardson (January 16, 1811 – December 27, 1875) was a prominent Illinois Democrat politician before and during the American Civil War.

Born near Lexington, Kentucky, Richardson attended Transylvania University, and then proceeded to teach school and study law. He passed the bar exam in 1831 and started his practice in Shelbyville, Illinois. He was an attorney for the state from 1834 to 1835, and was elected representative to the state house, serving from 1836 to 1838. He moved over to the state senate from 1838 to 1842, and then back to the house again from 1844 to 1846, briefly serving as speaker in 1844. He was a presidential elector in 1844 for the Democrats.

Richardson enlisted as a captain in the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War, and was promoted to the rank of major. After the war, he moved to Quincy, Illinois, and then was elected to the 30th Congress to fill Stephen A. Douglas's seat. He was then reelected to the 31st, 32nd, 33rd, and 34th Congresses for the same seat (1847 to 1856). During his time in the House of Representatives, he was the Chairman of the Committee on Territories (32nd–33rd Congresses). He resigned in August 1856 to run for Governor of Illinois. After being defeated, Richardson then went on to become governor of the Nebraska Territory for most of 1858.

He was a delegate to 1860 Democratic National Convention from Illinois. He then came back to Washington D.C. as a member of the 37th Congress in 1861. In 1863, he was elected to fill Stephen Douglas's old seat in the United States Senate, defeating incumbent Republican Orville Browning. He was not renominated in 1865 and spent the rest of his life engaged in newspaper work. He died in Quincy, Illinois, where he is buried.

Richardson County, Nebraska is named after him.


  1. "The Political Graveyard". Richardson, William Alexander. Retrieved January 10, 2006. 
  2. "Congressional Bioguide". Richardson, William Alexander. Retrieved January 10, 2006. 

This article incorporates facts obtained from The Political Graveyard.

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