00969 - James Speed; United States Attorney General, 1864-1866 [LC-DIG-cwpbh-00969]
James brother Joshua was perhaps one of the closest friends of Abraham Lincoln. Like Lincoln the Speed’s where born in Kentucky and had moved to Springfield. Joshua became a business partner with Lincoln in the 1830’s and remained one of his closest friends throughout his life. His brother James remained in Kentucky and when it was clear that the Civil War was coming he worked hard to keep Kentucky in the Union.
As a member of the Kentucky Senate he led Pro-Union elements to keep this border state from seceding. At the end of 1864 Lincoln appointed him to replace Edward Bates as Attorney General. He became a strong advocate of the vote for recently freed slaves. Following Lincoln’s death he became disillusioned with Johnson and resigned in 1866.
Back in Kentucky his support of African-Americans became unpopular and he lost a Senate race the following year. In 1868 there was an attempt to nominate him for Vice President on the Republican ticket, but that too failed. In 1870 he lost a race for a seat in Congress. He continued his law practice and died in Louisville in 1887, five years after his brother. They are both buried in the same Louisville cemetery.