Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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HARRIS, Isham Green, senator, born near Tullahoma, Tenn., 10 February, 1818. His father, of the same name, was the owner of a sterile farm and ten or twelve negroes, and his family grew up without discipline. At fourteen years of age Isham went to Paris, Tennessee, and took employment as a shop boy. In the following year he went to school, and before he was nineteen years old removed to Tippah county, Mississippi, where he became a successful merchant. He studied law for two years at night, attending to his business during the day, and had accumulated about $7,000 and also established a home for his father near Paris, Tenn., when, through the failure of a bank, he was left penniless. He resumed his business at Paris with a rich partner, and in two years had repaired his losses, His nights meanwhile had been given to the study of the law, and he was admitted to the bar in 1841. His legislative district had a small Democratic majority. Two obstinate Democrats insisted on running, and the leaders in caucus nominated Harris as a ruse to effect the withdrawal of one or the other. Neither would yield. He defeated them, and his Whig competitor also. Harris was elected to congress in 1848, and served two terms. He refused a renomination in 1853, and settled in Memphis as a lawyer. In 1856 he canvassed the state as presidential elector, and the success of his ticket was largely attributed to him. He was elected governor of Tennessee in 1857, re-elected in 1859, and again in 1861, after the civil war had actually begun. Until he was driven from the state by the success of the National arms, Gov. Harris exhibited ability and resource. He acted as volunteer aide on the staff of General Albert Sidney Johnston, and was with him when mortally wounded at Shiloh. He continued at the headquarters of the Army of the West during the remainder of the war, shared its hardships, and took part in all its important battles except Perryville. When the war began he was worth $150,000; when it closed he had nothing. He evaded capture on parole, went into exile in Mexico, where he lived eighteen months, and thence to England, where he remained a year. In 1867 he returned, and resumed the practice of law in Memphis, Tennessee In 1876 he announced himself as a candidate for the United States senate, and canvassed the state, challenging all comers to meet him in public discussion, he was successful, took his seat, 5 March, 1877, and was re-elected for the term ending in 1889. In the senate he has been an advocate of an honest and economical administration of the government, and an opponent of all class legislation. He was a member of the committee on claims, of the select committee on the levees of the Mississippi river, and chairman of the committee on the District of Columbia, while his party was in power in the senate.
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