Image courtesy of Library of Congress
Dedicating his life to public service, Dixon Hall Lewis of Alabama served three years in the Alabama state house and 19 years in the U.S. Congress.
On this date, Congressman Dixon Hall Lewis
of Alabama passed away at the National Hotel in New York City. Born on August 10, 1802, in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, Lewis graduated from South Carolina College in Columbia in 1820 and practiced law in Montgomery, Alabama. Influenced by his uncle, Representative Bolling Hall
of Georgia, Lewis became active in Alabama politics. He served in the Alabama legislature from 1825 to 1828 and was subsequently elected in 1828 to the U.S. House of Representatives as a States’ Rights Democrat. Lewis was a strong opponent of government expansion and “the pecuniary distress inflicted on the country, under the joint action of Banks, Tariffs, Internal Improvements, and other Whig measures.” During the 1839 contest for Speaker of the House
, Lewis proved to be a strong candidate. On the eighth ballot, he received 113 of the 117 votes necessary to win. However, on the 11th ballot, Representative Robert Hunter
of Virginia secured the speakership. Lewis served in the House until his appointment by his brother-in-law, Alabama Governor Benjamin Fitzpatrick
, to the U.S. Senate in 1844, where he served as Chairman of both the Committee on Finance and the Committee on Retrenchment. Aside from his political talent, Lewis’s most defining characteristic was his size; he was reported to weigh upwards of 430 pounds. Special seats were constructed “of very large dimensions, and of the strongest manufacture” for his use on the House and Senate floors. Upon his sudden death Lewis’s colleagues noted his selfless public service. Fellow Alabama Representative Sampson Harris
of Alabama eulogized his colleague: “The attainment of ‘noble ends by noble means,’ was the highest award to which his virtuous ambition aspired.” To honor the Lewis, the mayor of New York held a public funeral at city hall.