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Samuel Mayes Arnell (1833-1903)

Reconstruction legislator and congressman Samuel M. Arnell was born at Zion Settlement in Maury County on May 3, 1833. After attending Amherst College, Arnell returned to Tennessee, studied law, and practiced in Columbia.

Although a slaveholder, Arnell sided with the Union during the Civil War and traversed Middle Tennessee urging Tennesseans to maintain their allegiance to the United States. His relentless, vocal opposition to the Confederacy earned him many enemies, forcing him to flee to Nashville for safety. A Whig before the war, Arnell subsequently became a Radical Republican and represented Lewis, Maury, and Williamson Counties in the Tennessee General Assembly of 1865-66. Arnell wrote and introduced two franchise bills to prevent ex-Confederates from voting in state and national elections; they were signed into law in June 1865 and May 1866.

In the fall of 1865, after a disputed election in Tennessee's Sixth Congressional District between Arnell and Dorsey B. Thomas, Governor William G. Brownlow awarded the election certificate to Arnell. He remained in Congress until 1871, having chaired the Committee on Expenditures in the Department of State and served on the Committee on Education and Labor. The Arnell family continued to live in Washington, D.C., for a few years before returning to Columbia. From 1879 to 1885, Arnell served as the Columbia postmaster before becoming Superintendent of Public Schools. At the expiration of his term in 1888, Arnell and his family returned to Washington, D.C., until 1894, when his declining health forced them to move to Johnson City. He died there on July 20, 1903.

Suggested Reading

Kathleen R. Zebley, "Unconditional Unionist: Samuel Mayes Arnell and Reconstruction in Tennessee," Tennessee Historical Quarterly 53 (1994): 246-59.

Published » December 25, 2009 | Last Updated » January 01, 2010