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Hugh Williamson - One of America's Founding Fathers

Posted on Friday, December 20, 2019

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Birth: December 5, 1735
Death: May 22, 1819 (age 83)
Colony: North Carolina
Occupation: Merchant, Politician
Significance: Signed the United States Constitution (at the age of 51); served as Surgeon General of North Carolina; and served as a United States Congressman from North Carolina (1790-1793)

Hugh Williamson Statue (left) in Signers' Hall at the National Constitution Center

Hugh Williamson was born in Western Pennsylvania and moved east to attend the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania) where Williamson graduated from the school's very first class in 1757. Williamson received his Masters Degree in 1760, and he then taught at the University of Pennsylvania as a professor of mathematics. Williamson continued his academic pursuits in Europe, eventually shifting from mathematics to medicine and attending the University of Edinburgh and the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Williamson then returned to Philadelphia and started a medical practice and became involved with the American Philosophical Society.

When the Revolutionary War began, Williamson volunteered to serve as a military physician. This role led Williamson to North Carolina where he was named the state's Surgeon General. Williamson also opened a medical practice in North Carolina and established himself enough within the state that he was appointed to serve in the Continental Congress (Congress of the Confederation) in 1782. 

In 1787, Williamson was named a member of the Constitutional Convention which met in Philadelphia. At the Constitutional Convention, Williamson represented North Carolina and helped to debate, draft and sign the United States Constitution

Williamson was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1790 to represent his district in North Carolina. Williamson served two terms until his retirement from politics in 1793. Williamson then moved to North Carolina where he returned to scholarly studies and even helped to found the University of North Carolina. Despite a multitude of health problems he had experienced since birth, Williamson lived a very long life before dying in 1819 at the age of 83.

Hugh Williamson in Philadelphia

Williamson first lived in Philadelphia when he moved to the city as young man to attend the College of Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania), and he remained in Philadelphia for years as a professor after his graduation. Williamson returned to Philadelphia to serve in the Continental Congress and helped to draft the United States Constitution as a member of the Constitutional Convention, which met at Independence Hall in 1787. Williamson also worked in Congress Hall as a United States Congressman while Philadelphia was the Capital city of the United States. Today, you can also see a statue commemorating Williamson for his role in the creation of the United States Constitution in the Signers' Hall exhibit of the National Constitution Center. Signers' Garden pays tribute to the Founding Fathers, including those such as Williamson who signed the Constitution of the United States. The National Constitution Center, Congress Hall, Signers' Garden, Independence Hall, and the original location of the University of Pennsylvania are all visited on The Constitutional Walking Tour!

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