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Congressman Meredith Poindexter Gentry
1809 - 1866

Meredith Poindexter Gentry carried the blood, if not the surname, and found his place in law and politics. He was born in Rockingham County, North Carolina to Theodocea Poindexter and Watson Gentry. When he was four years old, the family removed to Tennessee. Meredith's formal education ended when he was fourteen, as he joined his father in operation of the family plantation. However, he continued to read at home in history and literature, and the study of law.

Despite the lack of a college education, he gained a place in the Tennessee state legislature, where he made his reputation as a remarkable orator, and a progressive in politics. In 1839, at the age, of thirty he was elected as a Whig to Congress, where he remained for twelve years. Interestingly, he attracted considerable attention with a speech on the abolishment of slavery, although by its content more than the remarkable timbre of his voice. Later he again spoke eloquently upon his moral principles, declaring the U.S. prosecution of the Mexican War to be nothing more than a bid for conquest.

In those early days, a fine speaker was given the same regards as popular singers of later days. People, might travel for miles, even days, to listen to a famed orator. None other than John Quincy Adams declared Gentry to be the finest orator of the lower house, and others compared him to Henry Clay. Certainly he had a rare gift for both words and tonality which stood him far above most of his peers. His reputation was sterling, and his place among great men assured.

In 1855, Meredith Gentry was the Whig candidate for Tennessee governor, against Andrew Johnson. He retired to his farm for a few years until 1861, when the specter of war loomed on the national horizon. True to his stance against slavery, he again stood and spoke in favor of the Union. However, when Tennessee followed Virginia into secession from the Union, Meredith Poindexter Gentry felt honor-bound to go with it. He became a member of the First and Second Confederate Congresses in 1862-63, yet evidently differed with that government on the prosecution of the war, and other matters.

Meredith, like many Southerners, suffered greatly from the reversals of the war. During the way he sold his fine farm, and by the time the surrender was final and the flags furled at last Mereidith was said to have been virtually impoverished. Sadly, in the bitter days of postwar Reconstruction to come, Tennessee would not be able to reclaim her most ardent and eloquent spokesman. Meredith Poindexter Gentry died at his home in 1866. He was just fifty-seven years old.

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