VILAS, William Freeman, (1840 - 1908)

Senate Years of Service: 1891-1897
Party: Democrat

VILAS, William Freeman, a Senator from Wisconsin; born in Chelsea, Orange County, Vt., July 9, 1840; moved with his parents to Madison, Dane County, Wis., in 1851; attended the common schools; graduated from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1858 and from the law department of the University of Albany, New York, in 1860; admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Madison, Wis., in 1860; enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War; captain of Company A, Twenty-third Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, and afterward major and lieutenant colonel of the regiment; professor of law at the University of Wisconsin; regent of the university 1880-1885; one of three revisers appointed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 1875 to prepare a revised body of the statute law; member, State assembly 1885; Postmaster General of the United States in the Cabinet of President Grover Cleveland 1885-1888, when he became Secretary of the Interior of the United States, and served until March 1889; elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate in 1891, and served from March 4, 1891, to March 3, 1897; unsuccessful candidate for renomination in 1896; chairman, Committee on Post Office and Post Roads (Fifty-third Congress); regent of the University of Wisconsin 1898-1905; resumed the practice of law; member of the commission to provide for the construction of the State capitol in 1907; died in Madison, Wis., August 27, 1908; interment in Forest Hill Cemetery.


Bibliography

American National Biography; Dictionary of American Biography; Merrill, Horace Samuel. William Freeman Vilas, Doctrinaire Democrat. Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1954; Schlup, Leonard. “Vilas, Stevenson, and Democratic Politics, 1884-1892.” North Dakota Quarterly 44 (Winter 1976): 44-52.