Secretary of State

John Jordan Crittenden

Term of OfficeApril 1834 - February 1835
PartyDemocratic Republican;Whig;Know-Nothing; Unionist
Significant AccomplishmentsIn 1861 he offered the Crittenden Compromise designed to avert the impending secession crisis.
Governor during his term of OfficeGov. James T. Morehead
EducationPisgah Academy; Washington College (later Washington & Lee); William & Mary College. Studied Law with George Bibb.
Spouse(s)Sarah Lee; Maria Todd; Elizabeth Ashley
ChildrenNine children
ParentsJohn & Judith (Harris) Crittenden
ResidenceKentucky (Russellville, Logan County; Frankfort, Franklin County)
Birth Date9/10/1786
Birth PlaceKentucky (near Versailles; Woodford County)
Date of Death7/26/1863
Place of DeathKentucky (Frankfort, Franklin County)
Place of BurialKentucky (Frankfort Cemetery, Franklin County)
National OfficesAttorney for the Illinois Territory; Aide-de-Camp to Illinois Governor Ninian Edwards. U.S. Senator (1817-19; 1835-41; 1842-1848; 1855-61); District Attorney (1827-1829); Attorney General (1841; 1850-53); U.S. Representative (1861-63).
Other State Offices HeldHouse of Representatives (1811-1817; 1829-1832); Speaker of the House (1817); Kentucky Governor (1848-50)
Military ServiceWar of 1812 (Aide to Samuel Hopkins & Isaac Shelby)
NoteTwo of his sons were Generals on opposite sides in the Civil War; his grandson was killed in Gen. Custer's expedition against the Sioux in 1876.
Historical FirstsOne of the organizers of the Constitutional Union Party.
Crittenden County, the 91st in order of formation, was named in honor of John J. Crittenden in 1842.

John Jordan Crittenden was born on September 10, 1786, in Woodford County. His parents were John and Judith (Harris) Crittenden. He was educated first at Pisgah Academy and Washington College (later Washington and Lee) before graduating from William and Mary. He studied law with George Bibb and began the practice of Law in Russellville. In 1809, he was appointed Attorney for the Illinois Territory and Aide-de-Camp to Illinois Governor Ninian Edwards. During the War of 1812 he served as aide, first to Samuel Hopkins and then to Isaac Shelby.

In 1811, he began six consecutive terms in the state House of Representatives. He then filled a vacancy in the U. S. Senate in 1817 until his resignation in 1819. In 1825, Crittenden moved to Frankfort to practice Law where he again served in the state House of Representatives, this time from 1829 to 1832. He became Secretary of State in the administration of Governor James T. Morehead. He was elected again to the U. S. Senate in 1835. He was reelected as a Whig in 1840, but he resigned to become William Henry Harrison’s Attorney General. He resigned after Harrison’s death and served in the U. S. Senate from 1842 to 1848. He resigned in 1848 in order to run for Governor against Lazarus W. Powell. He defeated Powell but resigned to become Millard Fillmore’s Attorney General. In 1854, he was elected for the fourth time to the U. S. Senate and served until 1861.

In 1860, Crittenden helped organize the Constitutional Union Party in order to avert the impending secession crisis. In 1861, he offered the Crittenden Compromise proposals for the same reason; they were, however, not accepted.

Crittenden married three times: to Sarah O. Lee in 1811; to Maria K. Todd in 1826, and to Elizabeth Ashley in 1853. He had nine children. Crittenden died on July 26, 1863, and is buried in the Frankfort Cemetery.


"Biographical Encyclopedia," (1878), page 62;

Collins, "History of Kentucky," (1874), pages 147-50;

Gresham, "Biographical Cyclopedia," (1896), pages 482-84;

"Kentucky Encyclopedia," pages 114-16;

Levin, ed., "Lawyers and Lawmakers," (1896), pages 114-16;

"Biographical Directory of the United States Congress" website.