Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

George W. Crawford (1849–1850): Secretary of War

George Walker Crawford was born in 1798 in Columbia County, Georgia. He graduated from Princeton College in 1820, studied the law, was admitted to the Georgia state bar, and established a law practice in Augusta in 1822.

Five years later, Crawford was serving as solicitor general of the Middle Judicial Circuit Court of Georgia. He resigned the post in 1831 to resume his law practice. In 1828, Crawford dueled with -- and killed -- Congressman Thomas E. Burnside. In response to this event, the state passed a law forbidding persons involved in duels from holding office; such restrictions did not apply to Crawford, who subsequently served in the state house of representatives from 1837 to 1842.

After filling a vacancy in the United States House of Representatives in 1843, Crawford, a Whig, was elected to two terms as Georgia's governor, serving from 1843 to 1847. Two years later, President Zachary Taylor tapped Crawford as his secretary of war, a post Crawford held from 1849 until Taylor's death in 1850. Crawford then returned home to his Georgia estate, retired from politics, pursued business interests, and became a wealthy man.

Crawford came out of retirement in 1861 to serve as a delegate to Georgia's secession in convention. He died in 1872.