Colonel William A. Phillips

George Washington McCrary (August 29, 1835 – June 23, 1890) was a United States Representative from Iowa, the 33rd United States Secretary of War and a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Circuit Courts for the Eighth Circuit.

Education and career

Born on August 29, 1835, near Evansville, Vanderburg County, Indiana,[1] McCrary moved with his parents in 1836 to the Wisconsin Territory (Iowa Territory from July 4, 1838, State of Iowa from December 28, 1846) who settled in Van Buren County.[2][3] He attended the public schools, taught in the country schools at age 18,[3] read law at the law firm of future United States Supreme Court Justice Samuel Freeman Miller[3] and was admitted to the bar in 1856.[1] He entered private practice in Keokuk, Iowa from 1856 to 1857.[1] He was a member of the Iowa House of Representatives in 1857, resuming private practice in Keokuk from 1858 to 1861.[1] He was a member of the Iowa Senate from 1861 to 1865, again resuming private practice in Keokuk from 1862 to 1869.[1]

Congressional service

McCrary was elected as a Republican from Iowa's 1st congressional district to the United States House of Representatives of the 41st United States Congress and to the three succeeding Congresses, serving from March 4, 1869, to March 3, 1877.[4] He was Chairman of the Committee on Elections for the 42nd United States Congress and Chairman of the Committee on Railways and Canals for the 43rd United States Congress.[4] He was not a candidate for renomination in 1876.[4]

Congressional activity

In McCrary's first month in Congress, he received national attention for refusing to support an appropriation for a federal courthouse in Keokuk because the nation was in debt and he could not support such a courthouse in every district.[5] He published A Treatise on the American Law of Elections, in 1875.[3][6] In the 44th United States Congress, as a member of the United States House Committee on the Judiciary, he was the author of a farsighted (but unsuccessful) bill to reorganize the federal courts to enable reasonable and prompt judicial review.[7] He helped create the Electoral Commission to resolve the outcome of the 1876 Presidential Election, and served on the committee that investigated the Credit Mobilier scandal.[3]

Secretary of War

Secretary of War George W. McCrary

McCrary was the 33rd United States Secretary of War in the cabinet of President Rutherford B. Hayes from March 12, 1877, to December 11, 1879, when he resigned.[8] As Secretary, McCrary withdrew federal troops from the remaining reconstruction governments in South Carolina and Louisiana, and used federal troops in the 1877 railway strike and in Mexican border disturbances.[3] But the greatest military conflicts during his watch occurred in the American West, in battles with certain Native American tribes in Colorado, New Mexico, and elsewhere.[9]


McCrary was elected as a 3rd Class (honorary) member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS).[citation needed] This was probably due to President Hayes' influence as a prominent member of MOLLUS.[citation needed] (Hayes would later serve as MOLLUS commander-in-chief.)[citation needed]

Federal judicial service

McCrary was nominated by President Rutherford B. Hayes on December 1, 1879, to a seat on the United States Circuit Courts for the Eighth Circuit vacated by Judge John Forrest Dillon.[1] He was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 9, 1879, and received his commission the same day.[1] His service terminated on March 18, 1884, due to his resignation, which he attributed to his family's financial need after his many years of public service.[1][3][10]

Later career and death

Following his resignation from the federal bench, McCrary resumed private practice in Kansas City, Missouri from 1884 to 1890.[1] He served as general counsel for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Company in Kansas City, Missouri from 1884 to 1890.[3][10] He died on June 23, 1890, in St. Joseph, Missouri,[1] after suffering from a stomach tumor.[2] He was interred in Oakland Cemetery in Keokuk.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "McCrary, George Washington - Federal Judicial Center".
  2. ^ a b "Obituary of George McCrary," New York Times, 1890-06-24 at p. 3.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "George Washington McCrary". Secretaries of War and Secretaries of the Army. United States Army Center of Military History. CMH Pub 70-12. Retrieved 2009-06-06.
  4. ^ a b c d United States Congress. "George W. McCrary (id: M000379)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  5. ^ "Needless Appropriations: Letter from George W. McCrary," New York Times, 1869-04-19 at p. 8.
  6. ^ George W. McCrary, "A Treatise on the American law of Elections," (Keokuk: R.B. Ogden 2nd ed. 1880).
  7. ^ Felix Frankfurter & John M. Landis,"The Business of the Supreme Court," pp. 78-79 (1st ed. 1927, reprinted Transaction Pub. 2007), ISBN 1-4128-0612-7.
  8. ^ "Nominations by the President,' New York Times, 1879-12-02 at p. 3.
  9. ^ "War Department Needs: Secretary M'Crary's Annual Report," New York Times, 1879-11-24 at p. 2.
  10. ^ a b "Judge M'Crary Resigns," New York Times, 1884-01-02 at p. 1.


External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
James F. Wilson
Member of the United States House of Representatives from Iowa's 1st congressional district
Succeeded by
Joseph Champlin Stone
Party political offices
Preceded by
Horace Maynard
Chairman of the House Republican Conference
Succeeded by
Eugene Hale
Political offices
Preceded by
J. Donald Cameron
United States Secretary of War
Succeeded by
Alexander Ramsey
Legal offices
Preceded by
John Forrest Dillon
Judge of the United States Circuit Courts for the Eighth Circuit
Succeeded by
David Josiah Brewer