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John Randolph Tucker (1823-1897)

For other people of the same name, see John Tucker.

John Randolph Tucker (December 24, 1823 – February 13, 1897) was an American lawyer, author, and politician from Virginia. He was a member of the Tucker family, which was influential in the legal and political affairs of the state of Virginia and the United States for many years.

Early life and family

Tucker was born in Winchester, Virginia, the son of Henry St. George Tucker, and grandson of St. George Tucker. He received his early education at a private school near his home, entered Richmond Academy, and finished his studies at the University of Virginia, where he graduated in law in 1844. He married Laura Powell in 1848. They had a single son, Henry St. George Tucker, III and several daughters.

Law and political career

He was admitted to the bar in 1845, and began the practice of law in Winchester. In 1854 he delivered a major speech to the literary societies at William and Mary, which argued that slavery was consistent with republicanism. He was a presidential elector on the Democratic ticket in 1852 and 1856. Tucker was Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 1857 to 1865. He was dispossessed of this office by the results of the American Civil War, and resumed the practice of law.

Elected to the United States House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1875, he served until 1887. He was chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means in the 46th Congress and chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary in the 48th and 49th Congresses.

He took an active part in the debates on the tariff, in opposition to the protective policy. His speeches on other questions include those on the Electoral Commission bill, the constitutional doctrine as to the presidential count, the Hawaiian treaty in 1876, the use of the army at the polls, in 1879, and Chinese emigration, in 1883. He introduced legislation broadening the power of the federal Court of Claims to hear Constitutional claims in 1886. This became known as the Tucker Act. He declined to be renominated to the House in 1886.

Electoral History


Tucker was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives with 65.23% of the vote, defeating Republican J. Foote Johnson.


Tucker was re-elected with 59.61% of the vote, defeating Republican George H. Burch.


Tucker was re-elected with 63.42% of the vote, defeating Independent Democrat Camm Patterson and Independent Lewis W. Cabell.


Tucker was re-elected with 59.56% of the vote, defeating Readjuster James A. Frazier and Republican David J. Woodfin.


Tucker was re-elected with 54.95% of the vote, defeating Readjuster Henry J. Rives and Republican Woodfin.

Later career

Tucker made an unsuccessful but legally influential argument on behalf of August Spies and the other Haymarket Riot defendants during their appeal to the Supreme Court. Elected professor of Constitutional law at Washington and Lee University in 1888, Tucker was Dean of the School of Law from 1893 to 1897. Tucker served as president of The Virginia Bar Association in 1891-1892, and president of the American Bar Association in 1894.

He died in 1897 in Lexington, Virginia and is buried in Winchester. His two volume treatise, The Constitution of the United States, appeared posthumously in 1899. His Lexington home, Blandome was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.[1]


  • . / Volume 138, Issue 327 (February, 1884) pp. 163-178
  • / Volume 47, Issue 209 (August, 1887) pp. 97-147.
  • / Volume 146, Issue 379 (June, 1888) pp. 674-681.

See also



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External links

  • Find-A-Grave biography
  • Biography at Washington & Lee Law School
Preceded by
Thomas Whitehead
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 6th congressional district

March 4, 1875 - March 3, 1887
Succeeded by
John W. Daniel

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