Of those who carried the Tennessee Democratic banner during the middle decades of the nineteenth century, few were as colorful, magnanimous, diligent, or fearsome as General Levin Coe. As a political warrior, Coe had few peers in either party.
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a law degree, Coe returned to Tennessee. In 1837 he won election to the Tennessee General Assembly representing Fayette, Hardeman, and Shelby Counties. Coe was reelected in 1839, and the House conferred upon him the honor of Speaker of the Twenty-third General Assembly.
When James K. Polk became president in early 1845, Coe received consideration for both a cabinet position and the Tennessee Democratic gubernatorial nomination. He was appointed inspector general of the Tennessee Militias.
In July 1846 President Polk offered Coe the position as quartermaster in the Army of Occupation in Mexico, with the rank of major, which he declined. In 1848 he was again a strong contender for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. That same year, at the Democratic National Convention, his name was placed in nomination for vice-president of the United States.
In June 1850, while serving as Memphis attorney general, Coe was shot in the back by Joseph C. Williams during a gun battle on the streets of Memphis, an attack precipitated by allegations of fraud concerning a local bank. He died August 10, 1850, at the age of forty-four.
Carl R. Coe, “Politics and Assassination: The Story of General Levin Hudson Coe,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 54 (1995): 30-39