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BIOGRAPHY: William Henry Denson born March 4,1846 – photograph





Russell and Jefferson County, Alabama

William Henry Denson of Birmingham was prominent in the profession of law and in the public affairs of Alabama. He was born in Uchee, Russell County, Alabama, March 4, 1846, the son of Augustus R. Denson, born in North Carolina in 1812, who married Elizabeth Ivey of Georgia, came to Alabama in 1833 and served as a soldier in the war of 1836 with the Alabama volunteers. The father of the latter was John E. Denson, a Virginian, and soldier of the War of 1812. Originally the family was established in Virginia by William Denson, a Scotch-Irishman.

William H. was a boy when the Civil war began, a student at the schools near his home and at the University of Alabama. In February 1864, not yet eighteen years of age, he enlisted in the Confederate service, with Maj. James F. Waddell’s battalion of artillery, organized from the remnants of Waddell’s battery, which had gone through the siege of Vicksburg. With him in the same command was his brother, John B. Denson, who lost his life at the battle of Resaca, about the middle of May 1864. Private Denson served through the numerous engagements from Dalton to Atlanta, Ga., and with the exception of an absence on furlough on account of a severe illness, was identified with the record of the battalion to the close of the war.

When his military service was ended by the general surrender of the Confederate forces, he returned home, raised a crop, and with the proceeds went to Columbus, Ga., and began the study of law. He was admitted to the bar in 1867, but did not begin the practice until 1870, when he established himself at La Fayette, Ala., where he soon won recognition as a successful and brilliant attorney. He removed to Gadsden in 1877, where he resided and practiced law until he made his home in Birmingham.

In addition to the duties of his profession. he has taken an active part in public life, first as a member of the legislature by-election in 1879, when he was a member of the judiciary committee, and of the joint committee on the revision of the code. He was a Cleveland elector in 1884, and in June 1885, was appointed United States district attorney for the northern and middle districts of Alabama.

In the year 1890, when the effort was made under the leadership of Capt. R. F. Kolb, by the then element of the Democratic party, which subsequently became the Populist party, Colonel Denson was chosen as president of the State Democratic convention. This convention was historical and constituted an epoch in the political history of the State. The quick and ready decision of the many questions of parliamentary law amid the tumultuous conflicts of contending forces, his good humor but firm and steady enforcement of his rulings, and the preservation of order brought the party out of its then apparent disintegrating condition, produced harmony, and Governor Jones, the nominee of the convention, was elected governor without opposition.

In 1892 he was elected to the United States Congress from the seventh district of Alabama; during one term he served with credit and ability to himself and his constituents. In the year 1899, he was again chosen president of the Democratic State convention, assembled to nominate delegates to a Constitutional convention, to formulate a new Constitution for the State. Much of the same character of conflict and tumult was manifested in this convention as in that of 1890, but, as in the convention of 1890, the individuality and firmness of Colonel Denson were again asserted, and peace, order, harmony, and fellowship were maintained.

Upon retiring from Congress Colonel Denson moved from Gadsden to Birmingham. He ranked among the leading lawyers and citizens of the State. He was quite an orator and one of the most entertaining speakers in the State. He married, in 1868, Rose Elizabeth Cowan, daughter of Dr. William Cowan of Eufaula and a niece of Senator J. L. Pugh.

They had five known children living in 1904:

  1. Annie L. Denson,(1870-1943) married  Robert D. Hudson
  2. Hugh C. Denson,
  3. William Augustus Denson, (1877-1957) married Ann Love Dowdell 
  4. John Barney Denson (1879-1947)
  5. Lola Eloise Denson (1881- 1967) married Dr. John Percy Reid

William Henry Denson passed away September 26, 1906, and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Jefferson County, Alabama along with his wife, Rosa Elizabeth,  died September 25, 1902.


  1. History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography by Thomas McAdory Owen, c1922
  2. Notable Men of Alabama: Personal and Genealogical, Volume 2 edited by Joel Campbell DuBose
  3. Memorial# 8016338 # 63477474# 63477437 #94230100# 63477240# 63477300 # 15092263



One comment

  1. Born on your birthday and died on Randy’s!