Andrew Jackson Donelson, son of Samuel and Mary Donelson, was a soldier, lawyer, politician, and diplomat. After his father's death around 1804 and his mother's remarriage, Donelson was reared at the Hermitage, home of his aunt, Rachel Donelson Jackson, and his namesake Andrew Jackson. He graduated from West Point, second in his class, and served as General Jackson's aide-de-camp during the Seminole campaign. After this conflict, he resigned from the army and studied law at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky.
In 1823 Donelson returned to Nashville to practice law and within the year married his first cousin, Emily Tennessee Donelson. He inherited his father's property adjacent to the Hermitage, and the Donelsons had their home, Tulip Grove, constructed while they were in Washington with President Jackson during most of his two terms. Donelson served as the president's private secretary, and Emily acted as the official hostess of the White House. Emily died of tuberculosis in 1836, shortly after Tulip Grove was completed, leaving four small children. Donelson remarried five years later and had eight more children with his second wife, Elizabeth Martin Randolph.
After Donelson's return to Nashville, he was appointed by President John Tyler to negotiate the annexation of Texas. His success in this undertaking led to his appointment as minister to Prussia from 1846 to 1849. In 1851 he became editor of the Washington Union but left this position as the Democratic Party moved toward sectionalism.
Donelson ran for vice-president on the Millard Fillmore ticket with the support of the Know-Nothing Party in 1856. Their loss ended his national political career. In 1858 he sold Tulip Grove to Mark Cockrill and moved his family and his law practice to Memphis, where he remained active in local politics. He died in Memphis in 1871.