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Thomas Walker Gilmer ( 1802 - 1844 )  Category ( Political_Leaders ) [suggest a correction]
 

Thomas Walker GilmerThomas Walker Gilmer was the fifteenth United States Secretary of the Navy, and the twenty-eighth governor of the State of Virginia. Born to a prosperous Albemarle County, Virginia family, his parents were George and Eliza Gilmer.  The Gilmer family arrived in Virginia from Scotland during the early eighteenth century, with the immigrant Dr. George Gilmer, son of an attorney, William Gilmer. George Gilmer studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, joined a London practice, married his partner’s daughter, and then embarked for Virginia.

The family lived on their farm, Gilmerton, in Albemarle County. Albemarle was a rural area in the early 19th century, and regular schools were few and far between. Fortunately, Gilmer's family could afford to hire private tutors, and so he was taught in that manner in Charlottesville, Staunton, and later studied law in what is now Bedford, Virginia. Once he completed his studies, he began to practice law in Charlottesville, and served briefly as the editor of a Charlottesville newspaper.

Gilmer displayed political ambitions appropriate to his class of Virginians. He was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates and served as the Albemarle County delegate from 1829-36. When he was reelected in 1839 he was appointed speaker of the house. One year later he was elected the twenty-eighth governor of Virginia. One year later he was elected to the U.S. Congress, then reelected in 1842.

He was an ardent supporter of then-president John Tyler, and worked for the administration to bring about the annexation of Texas. In 1844, after losing reelection to Congress, Tyler appointed Gilmer to the position of Secretary of the Navy. Ten days later he was touring the Potomac River aboard the Naval vessel USS Princeton, when a gun suddenly burst, resulting in Gilmer's death. He was buried in what is now Gilbert, West Virginia.

One year later, Gilmer County, Virginia was named in his honor. It is also now part of West Virginia. Supporters in distant Texas learned of Gilmer's tragic death, and a city was named in his honor. Later, two Naval ships were named USS Gilmer, in remembrance and honor of the Virginia statesman. Gilmer left a widow, Anne Elizabeth Baker Gilmer, and their son, George Hudson Gilmer, who became a Presbyterian minister. His wife’s father, John Baker, had once served as a delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives.


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