Alabama Attorneys General
John William Augustine Sanford
Attorney General: 1865-1868, 1870-1872, 1874-1878
Sanford, John William Augustine, colonel 60th Alabama infantry regiment, C.S. Army, attorney general of Alabama, lawyer, clerk of State supreme court, was born November 3, 1825, in Milledgeville, Ga., and died August 7, 1913, in Montgomery; son of John William Augustine and Marianne Ridley (Blount) Sanford, of Milledgeville, Ga., the former was born about 1798 in Hancock County, where he received his early education, afterwards completed a course of instruction in Yale college, was aide-de-camp to General Floyd in the celebrated controversy between that officer and President Adams in 1827, in 1832 was elected major-general by the legislature of Georgia, and as such commanded the Georgia troops in the Creek War of 1836, prior to this war had been elected a member of the Federal congress but resigned without taking his seat, at the earnest request of President Andrew Jackson, in order that he might serve the government as certifying agent of the sale of the Creek lands, was afterwards secretary of state of Georgia, in 1861 was the commissioner of Georgia to Alabama and Texas, at the commencement of the war resigned his office of major-general, volunteered as a private in the "Baldwin Blues" which formed a part of the 4th Georgia infantry regiment, and went with that organization to Virginia, was offered the command of the post of honor, but as he was well known to many of the officers of the regiment at Norfolk he was made aide-de-camp to Major-General Huger; grandson of captain Jesse and Martha Goodwyn (Mitchell) Sanford, the former a civil engineer by profession, and an officer in the Revolutionary Army under Washington. After the revolution he emigrated with his family to Hancock County, Ga., and of Col. Richard Augustus Blount of Southampton, Va.; great-grandson of William and Rachel (Medford) Sanford, of Loudoun County, Virginia.
John William Augustine Sanford, Jr. received his early education in the schools of Milledgeville and in Midway, near that city. He then attended Oglethorpe University, from which he was graduated November 13, 1844, with the degree of B. A. In July 1851, he was graduated from Harvard university with the degree of B. L. and in July, 1878, received from the University of Alabama, the degree of LL.D. He was admitted to the bar, October 19, 1852, and located, for the practice of his profession in Montgomery, which was thenceforth his home. He built up a lucrative practice in Montgomery and in the adjoining counties, in the Federal courts and in the supreme court of Alabama. In 1856 he was an elector on the Buchanan and Breckenridge ticket and as such he thoroughly canvassed the third congressional ticket. A States Rights Democrat of the strictest sect, four years later, he used every exertion to secure the election of Breckenridge and Lane and on the election of Mr. Lincoln he advocated secession as the only resort left to Alabama to protect her rights.
He was elected attorney general of the state in November, 1865. In 1868 he and others were displaced by General Meade, the commander of the military district, to make room for others under the reconstruction government established by Congress. Upon his removal, General Sanford wrote a letter to General Meade, asserting the right of Alabama to establish a government for herself, commenting on the iniquity of the reconstruction laws, and protesting against the tyranny and usurpation of the Federal authorities. This letter was widely published and everywhere met the approval of the people with the result that in 1870, he was renominated for attorney general and in the following November was elected by a large popular vote. He was re-elected in 1874 and again in 1876, but in 1878 he declined another nomination. December 1, 1880, he was tendered the clerkship of the supreme court, which he accepted and held until his resignation, November 5, 1892. In 1896 he was elector for the State at large on the Bryan and Sewell ticket, and on April 23, 1901, was elected delegate from Montgomery County to the constitutional convention. This was his last public service extending over a period of near fifty years.
On April 2, 1861, he joined as a private, Co. F, 3rd Alabama infantry regiment, but was soon promoted to assistant quartermaster with the rank of captain on the staff of Col. J. M. Withers and later on the staff of Col. Tennant Lomax of the same regiment. He served in this capacity until March, 1862, when he was authorized by the secretary of war to return to Alabama and raise a regiment. He was elected lieutenant colonel of the 3rd battalion, Hilliard's Legion, on June 25, 1862, and on November 25, 1863 was promoted colonel of the 60th Alabama infantry regiment, which formed a part of Gracie's brigade. He served through the East Tennessee campaign,and was with the brigade in the engagements around Richmond and Drury's Bluff and in all the engagements prior to the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.
He was an Episcopalian. Author: compiled the code of the city of Montgomery in 1860, 1861, and reported the 59th volume of the sessions of the supreme court of Alabama in 1879 and left numerous manuscripts of addresses before colleges, academies, and Confederate camps, all of high literary merit, and well worthy of publication. Married: March 7, 1860, in Montgomery to Sallie Maria, daughter of Col. William H. Taylor. Children: 1. John W. A. Sanford, III, who married Minnie Smoot, of Mobile, and died, leaving a family of several children. Last residence: Montgomery.
Thomas McAdory Owen. History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography. (Spartanburg: The Reprint Company Publishers, 1978, reprint 1921), iv, 1500-1501.