Reference Entry

Brown, John Calvin

in American National Biography Online


Published online February 2000 | e-ISBN: 9780198606697

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governor of Tennessee, was born in Giles County, Tennessee, the son of Duncan Brown and Margaret Smith, farmers. He attended Jackson College in Columbia, Tennessee, and graduated in 1846, reputedly one of the best-educated men in his region and speaking both Latin and French. He then studied law and, admitted to the bar in 1848, soon became successful as a lawyer, practicing in Giles County and the surrounding area. Though a Whig and the brother of Neill S. Brown, governor of Tennessee from 1847 to 1849, Brown did not become active in politics until the 1860 campaign, when he ran as an elector on the Constitutional Union party ticket of John Bell and Edward Everett. He campaigned aggressively against secession but also against the Republican party. The strain of the election seems to have been too much for his health, for he decided to take a cure popular among the well-to-do at the time, extensive travels through much of North America, Europe, and the Middle East. He returned just before the outbreak of the Civil War.

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