Image of Browning, Orville Hickman

Browning, Orville Hickman

b. February 10, 1806, in Harrison County, Kentucky; d. August 10, 1881, in Quincy, Illinois. Browning studied law in Kentucky, and in 1831, he moved to Quincy, Illinois, to practice law. In 1832, he fought in the Black Hawk War. Active in Whig politics, Browning was elected a state senator in 1836, and he received notoriety as a senator because he opposed Lincoln's internal improvement scheme. Browning entered into a law partnership with Nehemiah H. Bushnell in 1837, which lasted until Bushnell's death in 1872. In 1842, Browning was elected to the state legislature. Browning joined the Republican party in 1856, and in 1861, Governor Richard Yates appointed him to the U.S. Senate after the death of Stephen A. Douglas. He sought a seat on the United States Supreme Court after the death of Justice John McLean, but Lincoln appointed David Davis to the position instead. While Lincoln was president, Browning supported the President's handling of the border states, but he opposed the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation. After losing his bid for reelection, Browning remained in Washington, DC, and practiced law while maintaining contact with President Lincoln. In 1866, President Andrew Johnson appointed Browning Secretary of the Interior, and for a few months he was also Attorney General. He returned to Illinois in 1869, where he resumed his partnership with Nehemiah H. Bushnell, and both men worked to promote the interests of railroads. Browning was a Democratic member of the 1870 constitutional convention.
Maurice Baxter, Orville H. Browning: Lincoln's Friend and Critic (Bloomington: Indiana University, 1957); Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois), August 12, 1861, 3; John J. Duff, A. Lincoln: Prairie Lawyer (New York: Bramhall House, 1960), 20, 308-09; John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 3:769-70; Allen Johnson, ed., Dictionary of American Biography (New York: Charles Scribner’s & Sons, 1964), 2:1:175-76; Usher F. Linder, Reminiscences of the Early Bench and Bar of Illinois (Chicago: The Chicago Legal News Company, 1879), 83-84; Mark E. Neely Jr., The Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia (New York: McGraw Hill, 1982), 38-40; John Palmer, ed., The Bench and Bar of Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1899), 1:183; James G. Randall, ed., The Diary of Orville Hickman Browning (Springfield, Illinois: The Illinois State Historical Library, 1933). Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.