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William Rufus DeVane King

Interment Location Visited Sequence in Graves I Have Visited
Selma, AL June 10, 2013 8th President Pro Tempore visited; 38th Vice President visited

Photographed June 10, 2013.

William Rufus DeVane King was one of Alabama’s inaugural senators after its admission into the Union in 1819. Apart from a brief intermission during which he was the U.S. minister to France, King was a fixture in the Senate until December 1852, by which time he was vice president-elect. His tenure as VP was a far briefer 46 days, shortened by a fatal bout of tuberculosis.

William Rufus King is interred in Selma, Alabama, which he co-founded and named. King derived the name from the eighteenth century epic poem The Songs of Selma, put forth by Scottish writer James Macpherson. Selma is often associated with a different King who stands in stark contrast to the prolific enslaver that co-founded the city. In March 1965, Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. led thousands of demonstrators on a 54-mile procession from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery to demand action on voting rights protections. After the Voting Rights Act became law months later, Dr. King attributed its passage to the events in Selma, which included not only the actual march but the televised brutality inflicted upon those who participated in an earlier march attempt, as well as extensive organization efforts.

Photographed June 10, 2013.
Photographed June 10, 2013.

Former Vice President King’s gravesite within Live Oak Cemetery is simple to find. It is located right by the road that cuts through the property. The King mausoleum is made of white marble and the VP’s name is carved into the stone above its doorway, along with other biographical information. Another inscription chiseled on the tomb indicates it was designed by J.T. Allen.

Live Oak Cemetery was not King’s first resting place. For the first 29 years after his death, his remains were kept at his cotton plantation at King’s Bend called Chestnut Hill. He was reinterred at Live Oak in 1882. I have seen some sources claim he was buried beneath the mausoleum rather than entombed inside of it, but thus far I have not seen any evidence to substantiate such a claim. Therefore I will err on the side of traditional burial practices and say he is actually resting within the structure.

Photographed June 10, 2013.
Photographed June 10, 2013.

Another occupant of the mausoleum is one of my personalized grave hunter challenge coins. I deposited it through the keyhole. Unless someone has cause to open the tomb, I imagine the coin will stay there for a long time. 

Fast Facts

Born: April 7, 1786 in Sampson County, North Carolina

Spouse: None

Primary Political Affiliation: Democratic Party

Vice Presidential Term: 1853 under Franklin Pierce

Died: April 18, 1853 in King’s Bend, Alabama

Cause of Death: Tuberculosis

Age: 67

Last Words: “Hush, let me pass quietly.”

Interment: Live Oak Cemetery, Selma, Alabama

"He is among the best, purest and most consistent public men I have ever known, and is also a sound judging and discreet counsellor. You might rely with implicit confidence upon his information, especially in regard to the Southern states, which I know are at the present moment tremblingly alive to the importance of your cabinet selections."
- James Buchanan

December 11, 1852, praising Vice President-elect William Rufus King in a letter to President-elect Franklin Pierce

Sources Consulted

Balcerski, Thomas J. Bosom Friends: The Intimate World of James Buchanan & William Rufus King. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.

Curtis, George Ticknor. Life of James Buchanan: Fifteenth President of the United States. Vol. 2. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1883. 

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