William Taylor Barry was born on February 5, 1784, in Lunenberg County, Virginia. His parents were John and Susannah (Dozier) Barry. His family migrated to Kentucky in the mid-1790s and settled in Fayette County. Barry was educated at the Pisgah Academy, the Kentucky Academy, and at Transylvania University. He graduated from William and Mary College in 1803. He studied law with John Rowan and was admitted to the Bar in 1805.
Barry was a Jeffersonian Republican and then a Democrat. He was appointed Commonwealth Attorney in 1805. In 1807, he was elected to the Kentucky House and reelected in 1809. He served in the U. S. House of Representatives from August 1810 until March 1811. After brief service in the War of 1812, he was reelected to the Kentucky House in 1814. He then served in the U. S. Senate from December 1814 until May 1816.
From 1817 until 1821 Barry again served in the Kentucky House where, after the Bank Panic of 1818, he became well known as an advocate of relief for debtors and a supporter of the state-funded Bank of the Commonwealth. He was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1820 and served with Governor John Adair. He made a persuasive case for a system of free public education in the Barry Report (1822).
In 1824, Barry served briefly as Secretary of State in the administration of Governor Joseph Desha before becoming Chief Judge of the New (Pro-Relief) Court. In 1828, he ran for Governor against Thomas Metcalfe and was only narrowly defeated. He was appointed Postmaster General in 1829 by President Andrew Jackson. Following charges of favoritism and corruption in 1834, however, Barry resigned his office to become minister to Spain in 1835. He died on August 30, 1835, in Liverpool, England, on the way to his new assignment. He is buried in the Frankfort Cemetery.
William Barry was married twice—first to Lucy Overton and second to Catherine Mason. He had a daughter, Susan Lucy Barry, from his first marriage and a son, Andrew Jackson Barry, from his second marriage.
“Biographical Encyclopedia,” (1878), pgs. 310-11;
Collins, “History of Kentucky, Vol. II,” (1874), pgs. 196-98;
“Kentucky Encyclopedia,” (1992), pgs. 55-56;
Levin, ed., “Lawyers and Lawmakers,” (1897), pgs. 731-35.