Days Gone By - stories from the past

There was a rumor that Vice-President William Rufus King from Alabama had a secret life

On July 4, 1850 at a hot July 4th celebration at the Washington Monument, President Zachary Taylor died five days later on July 9, 1850 and Millard Fillmore was elevated to the presidency.

King was president pro tem of the United States Senate

At the time, William Rufus King was president pro tem of the United States Senate. With the vice president’s office now vacate, King was next in the order of succession. He remained just a heartbeat away from the presidency for two years. Though he acted officially as America’s vice president, he did not have the title.

william rufus kingVice-president William Rufus King

Disagreement in Democratic Party in 1852

When the 1852 Democratic convention took place in Baltimore, Frank Pierce was finally selected as the party’s presidential candidate on the 49th ballot. The Democratic Party was divided. Pierce’s supporters wanted to unite the party so they allowed the allies of the opposing candidate, Buchanan, to select the vice-president running mate. William Rufus King was chosen. Pierce was a moderate New Englander and William Rufus King was a conservative from Alabama.

William Rufus King became ill

The Pierce/ King ticket went on to win the election, but King was very ill. It was feared that he had contracted tuberculosis in Paris where he served as minister to France. He had a hacking cough and had lost considerable weight. By November, he was so ill that he could not fulfill his duties in the Senate and resigned his position on December 20, two weeks into the December-March session. Previously, Governor Pickens of Alabama had gone to Matanzas, Cuba in search of a cure for his cough. The city Matanzas was warm and sunny and was supposed to have mineral springs that aided healing.

Governor Pickens is buried in Cuba

However, Governor Pickens did not get well. He died in Mantanzas and is buried in Cuba.

Gov. Israel PickensGov. Israel Pickens of Alabama

King did not improve either. He was so ill, that he sent word that he wouldn’t be able to return to Washington. Instead, he asked for permission to take his oath of office for vice-president in Cuba. Surprisingly, Congress approved and on March 24, 1853, King was sworn in at an office in Mantanzas. He was so weak that he had to remain seated when he took the oath. He did not take it willingly because he thought it was useless since he felt he would die soon. After taking the oath, he returned to his sick bed.
Somehow, King managed to regain enough strength to return to the United States. On April 6, 1853, King boarded a ship for Mobile, and from there he followed the Alabama River up to his plantation at King’s Bend. He arrived at his plantation on April 17, 1853 and died the following day. He is buried on the grounds of his plantation. He was reburied in Live Oak Cemetery in 1882.

Old Live Oak cemetery ca. 2010 by Carol Highsmith (Library of Congress)Old Live Oak cemetery ca. 2010 by Carol Highsmith (Library of Congress)

Strange story

A strange story accompanies the removal to Live Oak Cemetery. It is said that since his relatives were not interested in moving him to the city owned Live Oak Cemetery where he could be honored, that Selma’s mayor and the local undertaker took matters in their own hands. The story of what took place is from The Tuscaloosa News February 17, 2008 by Ben Windham.
Wearing disguises and accompanied by two laborers, they rode out to King’s Bend and broke open his tomb with a sledgehammer. They loaded King’s coffin onto a wagon and headed back to Selma. One of the King family servants saw them and sounded the alarm. He tore into the big house hollering, ‘Somebody done stole Marse William!’
By then, the Selmians were way down the road.
They hid the coffin at the undertaker’s for a while. When they thought things had blown over, they reburied it in a cemetery lot set aside by the Selma City Council. It’s still there today.”

According to Ben Windham of The Tuscaloosa News, the “subject of King’s sexuality is still a topic of debate. King had an exceptionally close relationship with Sen. James Buchanan of Pennsylvania, who was destined to become president.” Some historians believe they were lovers.


  • The Tuscaloosa News, Feb. 17, 2008 by Ben Windham, Vice president from Alabama may have led secret life.



ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Confrontation: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 4) is a collection of lost and forgotten stories that reveals why and how the confrontation between the Native American population and settlers developed into the Creek-Indian War as well as stories of the bravery and heroism of participants from both sides.
Some stores include:

  • Tecumseh Causes Earthquake
  • Terrified Settlers Abandon Farms
  • Survivor Stories From Fort Mims Massacre
  • Hillabee Massacre
  • Threat of Starvation Men Turn To Mutiny
  • Red Eagle After The War

Buy Now
See larger image

Additional Images:Img - 1518702716
Img - 1518702716

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Confrontation: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 4) (Paperback)

By (author):  Causey, Donna R

List Price: $15.97
New From: $5.49 In Stock
buy now

About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

Liked it? Take a second to support Alabama Pioneers on Patreon!


  1. Good story, but the headline is deceptive, considering that it is mentioned only in the last two sentences. Circumstantial evidence does indeed suggests that King and Buchanan were lovers.

    1. so much is not known in historical matters… “CLOSET’ as why when those learn of the historical nature of King James, they will become RED in the face…

    2. I agree John. The story is a good read and interesting, but the headline is misleading and that last paragraph seems like an afterthought.

  2. He was my mothers great Uncle.

    1. I`m a descendant of Henry and Elizabeth King. He was my gggGrandfathers brother.

  3. He was my mothers great uncle.

    1. Phillip do you know if Rufus King had relatives in Morgan County, Lacon area?

  4. […] Legislature proceeded to elect United States Senators, and on the first ballot, elected William King and John W. Walker over Thomas D. Crab and George Phillips. Governor Bibb was inaugurated, with […]

  5. Very informative and interesting story. Everyone from Selma knows of William Rufus King if, for nothing else, the distinctive tomb in the center of Old Live Oak Cemetery. The picture of the grave in the article is not that of King. King’s tomb on the street side of an access road that goes between Selma and Dallas avenues and I believe is a block west of Pettus St.

    When I was in high school, I was riding with a friend whose truck broke down directly in front of it. As he continued to try and restart the truck, the carburetor eventually ignited and the entire truck caught on fire. We ran to a friends house several blocks away to call the fire department. Being the young individuals that we were, we feared the truck would explode and destroy an historical Selma icon. It’s funny now but at the time we were not laughing.

  6. What purpose was accomplished by posting a rumor that can’t be verified? Some of history’s supposed secrets need to stay buried with the corpse they belong to, since they can not defend themselves!

  7. Charles Turner this is for you.

  8. Betty Jenkins, Have you read this??

    1. Jacki Bailey Riley I am not sure about this.Most of this information I have read,but not his so called “secret “life.

    2. Betty Jenkins, it’s probably not true anyway !!!

    3. Jacki Bailey Riley It was one of those wirst-kept secrets. Everybody knew.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.