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George Washington McCrary
33rd United States Secretary of War

In office
March 12, 1877 – December 10, 1879
President Rutherford B. Hayes
Preceded by James D. Cameron
Succeeded by Alexander Ramsey
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
March 4, 1869 - March 3, 1877
Preceded by James F. Wilson
Succeeded by Joseph C. Stone
Personal details
Born (1835-08-29)August 29, 1835
Evansville, Indiana, U.S.
Died June 23, 1890(1890-06-23) (aged 54)
Saint Joseph, Missouri, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Helen Amanda McCrary
Profession Lawyer, Judge, Politician

George Washington McCrary (August 29, 1835 – June 23, 1890) was a four-term Republican Congressman from Iowa's 1st congressional district, a United States Secretary of War in the cabinet of President Rutherford B. Hayes, and a federal circuit judge.

Personal background[edit | edit source]

McCrary was born near Evansville, Indiana in 1835. Two years later, he moved with his parents to Wisconsin Territory,[1] to what is now Van Buren County, Iowa.[2] He attended the public schools (then, at age eighteen, taught in a country school).[2] He studied law in Keokuk, Iowa at the law firm of future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel F. Miller,[2] then was admitted to the bar in 1856, and, at the age of twenty, commenced practice in Keokuk.

Legislative service[edit | edit source]

He was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives in 1857, serving until 1860. Then he was a member of Iowa Senate between 1861 and 1865. In 1868 he was elected as a Republican to the first of four consecutive terms representing Iowa's 1st congressional district in the U.S. House. In his first month in Congress he received national attention for refusing to support an appropriation for a federal courthouse in Keokuk because the nation was in debt and he could not support such a courthouse in every district.[3] In the House, he chaired the Committee on Elections (in the Forty-second Congress), and the Committee on Railways and Canals (in the Forty-third Congress). He published A Treatise on the American Law of Elections, in 1875.[2][4] In the Forty-fourth Congress, as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, he was the author of a farsighted (but unsuccessful) bill to reorganize the federal courts to enable reasonable and prompt judicial review.[5] He helped create the Electoral Commission to resolve the outcome of the 1876 Presidential Election, and served on the committee that investigated the Credit Mobilier scandal.[2]

Secretary of War[edit | edit source]

Secretary of War George W. McCrary

He served as the Secretary of War under President Hayes from March 12, 1877 to December 1879, when he resigned to accept his next appointment.[6] As Secretary, he withdrew federal troops from the remaining reconstruction governments in South Carolina and Louisiana, and used federal troops in the 1877 railway strike and in Mexican border disturbances.[2] But the greatest military conflicts during his watch occurred in the American West, in battles with certain Native American tribes in Colorado, New Mexico, and elsewhere.[7]

He was elected as a 3rd Class (honorary) member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS). This was probably due to President Hayes' influence as a prominent member of MOLLUS. (Hayes would later serve as MOLLUS commander-in-chief.)

Circuit judge[edit | edit source]

On December 1, 1879, President Hayes nominated McCrary to become a judge of the United States Circuit Court for the Eighth Circuit (which preceded the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit).[6] Referencing his family's financial need after his many years of public service, he left the court in 1884 to become general counsel for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway.[2][8]

Early death[edit | edit source]

He died in Saint Joseph, Missouri in 1890, at age 54, after suffering from a stomach tumor.[1] He was interred in Oakland Cemetery in Keokuk.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Obituary of George McCrary," New York Times, 1890-06-24 at p. 3.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 "George Washington McCrary". Secretaries of War and Secretaries of the Army. United States Army Center of Military History. CMH Pub 70-12. http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/sw-sa/McCrary.htm. Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  3. "Needless Appropriations: Letter from George W. McCrary," New York Times, 1869-04-19 at p. 8.
  4. George W. McCrary, "A Treatise on the American law of Elections," (Keokuk: R.B. Ogden 2nd ed. 1880).
  5. Felix Frankfurter & John M. Landis,"The Business of the Supreme Court," pp. 78-79 (1st ed. 1927, reprinted Transaction Pub. 2007), ISBN 1-4128-0612-7.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Nominations by the President,' New York Times, 1879-12-02 at p. 3.
  7. "War Department Needs: Secretary M'Crary's Annual Report," New York Times, 1879-11-24 at p. 2.
  8. "Judge M'Crary Resigns," New York Times, 1884-01-02 at p. 1.

External links[edit | edit source]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
James F. Wilson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Iowa's 1st congressional district

March 4, 1869 – March 3, 1877
Succeeded by
Joseph C. Stone
Political offices
Preceded by
James D. Cameron
U.S. Secretary of War
Served under: Rutherford B. Hayes

March 12, 1877 – December 10, 1879
Succeeded by
Alexander Ramsey

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