Reference Entry

Brown, John

in American National Biography Online


Published online February 2000 | e-ISBN: 9780198606697

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lawyer, congressman, and U.S. senator from Kentucky, was born in Staunton, Virginia, the son of John Brown, a prominent Presbyterian minister in the Shenandoah Valley, and Margaret Preston, whose brother William Preston held a number of important government posts in western Virginia. Schooled at his father’s Liberty Hall Academy, which later became Washington and Lee University, the younger John Brown continued his education at Princeton, his father’s alma mater. Brown’s tenure at Princeton was interrupted by the Revolution. When George Washington retreated through New Jersey in November 1776, Brown enlisted as a private in the American army. After his military service he returned to school in 1778, not at Princeton but at William and Mary, where he became one of the earliest members of Phi Beta Kappa. Torn between a career in medicine or law, Brown chose the latter, studying for a year under the tutelage of Thomas Jefferson.

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