Herndon, William Henry

Herndon, William Henry,

1818–91, friend, law partner, and biographer of Abraham LincolnLincoln, Abraham
, 1809–65, 16th President of the United States (1861–65). Early Life

Born on Feb. 12, 1809, in a log cabin in backwoods Hardin co., Ky. (now Larue co.), he grew up on newly broken pioneer farms of the frontier.
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, b. Greensburg, Ky. In 1844 he became the junior member of the Springfield, Ill., law firm of Lincoln and Herndon, a partnership that was never dissolved. The two became close friends, and Herndon played a major role in Lincoln's early political career, managing the 1858 campaign against Senator Stephen Douglas. After Lincoln's assassination Herndon collected reminiscences of Lincoln's boyhood and youth from those who had known him and in his old age wrote, with Jesse Weik, Herndon's Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life (3 vol., 1889). In it, Herndon presented a picture of Lincoln intended to counteract the heroic, almost mythical, view of him held by the public. The focus on Lincoln's personal life led to many distortions, however, and in the case of the Ann RutledgeRutledge, Ann,
1813?–1835, American historical figure, alleged fiancée of Abraham Lincoln. Her father kept the inn at New Salem, Ill., where Lincoln lived from 1831 to 1837. Ann's sudden death from brain fever on Aug.
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 romance, serious inaccuracies. Although his work has been largely discredited, Lincoln scholars owe Herndon a large debt for his assiduous collection of materials relating to Lincoln's life.


See D. H. Donald, Lincoln's Herndon (1948).

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