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William Lyne Wilson
William Lyne Wilson

37th United States Postmaster General
In office
April 3, 1895 – March 5, 1897
Preceded by Wilson S. Bissell
Succeeded by James A. Gary

Born May 3, 1843(1843-05-03)
Charles Town, Virginia, USA
Died October 17, 1900 (aged 57)
Lexington, Virginia, USA
Political party Bourbon Democrat
Alma mater Columbian College
Profession Politician, Lawyer, Soldier, Professor, University president
Military service
Service/branch Confederate States Army
Rank Private
Unit 12th Virginia Cavalry
Battles/wars American Civil War

William Lyne Wilson (May 3, 1843 – October 17, 1900) was a Bourbon Democrat politician and lawyer from West Virginia.


Born in Charles Town, Virginia (now West Virginia), Wilson attended Charles Town Academy, graduated from Columbian College in 1860 and subsequently studied at the University of Virginia. During the Civil War, he enlisted in the Confederate Army and served as a private in the 12th Virginia Cavalry. For several years, he taught school at Columbian College during which he graduated from law school and was admitted to the bar in 1869, commencing practice in Charles Town.

Wilson was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1880 and was chosen as president of West Virginia University, taking office on September 4, 1882. He was elected a Democrat to the United States House of Representatives shortly afterwards and won reelection five times afterwards, serving from 1883 to 1895. He served as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means from 1893 to 1895 during which he co-authored the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act which slightly reduced the United States tariff rates from the numbers set by the McKinley Tariff of 1890, though the logrolling that raised the rates disgusted him.

After leaving Congress, Wilson was appointed Postmaster General in the cabinet of President Grover Cleveland and served from 1895 to 1897. During that time, future Secretary of War Newton D. Baker served as his private secretary. In 1896, he broke party lines by opposing the Free Silver Movement led by Democratic presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan and, like many Bourbon Democrats, supported the National Democratic candidate John McAuley Palmer who supported the traditional gold standard, limited government and opposed protectionism.

After leaving office as Postmaster General, Wilson served as president of Washington and Lee University. He died in Lexington, Virginia, on October 17, 1900 and was interred in Edgehill Cemetery in Charles Town. A portion of U.S. Route 340 between Harpers Ferry and Charles Town, West Virginia, is designated the William L. Wilson Freeway in his honor.


Preceded by
Wilson S. Bissell
United States Postmaster General
April 4, 1895 – March 5, 1897
Succeeded by
James A. Gary
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John B. Hoge
Member from West Virginia's 2nd congressional district
March 4, 1883 – March 3, 1895
Succeeded by
Alston G. Dayton

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