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George Wythe
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Attorney
    (1726-June 8, 1806)
    Born in Elizabeth City County, Virginia
    Lawyer/politician/judge/educator
    Mayor of Williamsburg, Virginia (1768-69)
    Appointed Chair of Law at the College of William and Mary, becoming the first law professor in the United States (1769)
    Delegate from Virginia to the Second Continental Congress (1775-77)
    Signed the Declaration of Independence (1776)
    Elected Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates (1777)
    Member of the Constitutional Convention (1787)
    Appointed Judge of the Chancery Court of Virginia (1789)
    Murdered with arsenic by his grand-nephew George Wythe Sweeney
    He dropped out of the college where he later became a professor.
    Although he was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, he left early and did not sign the Constitution.
    His killer walked, largely because the main eyewitness, Wythe's cook Lydia Broadnax, was black and her testimony was not admissible against a white defendant.
    While serving in the Virginia House of Delegates three decades earlier, he had discussed with Thomas Jefferson allowing court testimony by blacks, but both had dismissed the idea as politically unfeasible.
    His students included future presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe and Chief Justice John Marshall.
    He often let needy students live in his home.
    He was part of the committee that designed the Seal of Virginia.
    Along with Alexander Hamilton and Charles Pickney, he was appointed by George Washington to draw up the rules and procedures for the Constitutional Convention.
    He became an abolitionist after the American Revolution, freed his slaves, provided financial support for their transition to freedom, and named several in his will.
    He lived long enough after being poisoned to write Sweeney out of his will.

Credit: C. Fishel


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