William R. Dickey (1823–1903)

William R. Dickey represented Carroll, Floyd, and Grayson counties in the Constitutional Convention of 1867–1868. Before the American Civil War (1861–1865), he worked as a farmer and a deputy clerk of court. Dickey won election to the convention, which was mandated by the Reconstruction Acts to create a new state constitution, as a Republican. Despite his partisan affiliation, he often sided with the opposition Conservative Party. He supported the right to vote for both African Americans and former secessionists, but also backed racial segregation in the state's new public school system. He was active in the Grayson County Republican Party during the 1870s and 1880s, and helped establish a partisan newspaper in Independence, the Grayson Journal. Dickey later served as postmaster and deputy collector of internal revenue. He died in 1903. MORE...

 

Dickey was born on October 18, 1823, probably in Grayson County. He was the son of James Dickey and his first wife, Elizabeth Bourne Dickey. Late in the 1840s he married Martha Hale. They had at least two daughters and one son. Dickey owned nearly 300 acres of land near the courthouse in the town of Independence and was identified as a farmer both before and after the Civil War. He also worked at the county courthouse as clerk of court in 1851. He may have remained at home working his farm during the Civil War. In July 1866 Dickey petitioned the governor to commute the death sentence of an African American to life imprisonment, on the grounds he did not receive a fair trial because of the prejudices of some civil officers of the county court.

On October 22, 1867, Dickey was one of two men elected to represent Carroll, Floyd, and Grayson counties in the state constitutional convention that met from December 3, 1867, to April 17, 1868. Incomplete election returns indicate that he received significant support from African American men, who were eligible to vote for the first time. He served as ranking member of the Committee on Taxation and Finance, but he did not speak during the portion of the convention for which a record of debates survives. Dickey was sympathetic to the state's new Republican Party but frequently sided with Conservatives during roll-call votes. Although he opposed the disfranchisement of blacks, he also voted against restrictions on the suffrage of former secessionists and supported racial segregation in the new public school system. On April 17 he voted against the constitution that the convention adopted. In 1868 Dickey sold some land for the establishment of an African American school in Independence. The following year he received $30 for repairs and sat on the county board of education during the first years of the school system.

Dickey was active in the Grayson County Republican Party during the 1870s and 1880s. He helped found one partisan newspaper in Independence, the Grayson Journal, and with several partners bought another paper, the Grayson Clipper, and transformed it into another Republican Party organ. He served as deputy collector of internal revenue during the second presidential administration of Ulysses S. Grant and postmaster of the town of Independence from July 1889 to April 1893, during the administration of Benjamin Harrison. Dickey joined most other Virginia Republicans during the 1880s in supporting the Readjusters, a biracial coalition that sought to repudiate a portion of the state's prewar debt and to redirect remaining resources in support of public schools and other state institutions. Early in 1876 he formed a partnership to open a mine in the county, but his business and financial history, as well as his personal history, is poorly documented.

By the end of the century, Dickey and his wife had moved into the household of one of their married daughters in Independence. Dickey died on January 28, 1903, and was buried in the Independence town cemetery.

Time Line

  • October 18, 1823 - William R. Dickey is born, probably in Grayson County.
  • Late 1840s - William R. Dickey and Martha Hale marry. They will have at least three children.
  • 1851 - William R. Dickey works as a clerk of court at the Grayson County courthouse.
  • July 1866 - William R. Dickey petitions the governor to commute the death sentence of an African American to life imprisonment, on the grounds he did not receive a fair trial due to racial prejudice.
  • October 22, 1867 - William R. Dickey is elected to represent Carroll, Floyd, and Grayson counties at the Constitutional Convention of 1867–1868.
  • 1868 - William R. Dickey sells land for the establishment of an African American school in Independence, Grayson County.
  • April 17, 1868 - William R. Dickey votes against the majority, which adopts a new state constitution.
  • 1876 - William R. Dickey forms a partnership to open a mine in Grayson County.
  • July 1889–April 1893 - William R. Dickey serves as postmaster of Independence, Grayson County.
  • January 28, 1903 - William R. Dickey dies in Independence, Grayson County.

References

Further Reading
Hume, Richard L. "The Membership of the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867–1868: A Study of the Beginnings of Congressional Reconstruction in the Upper South." Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 86, no. 4 (October 1978), 461–484.
Lowe, Richard G. "Virginia's Reconstruction Convention: General Schofield Rates the Delegates." Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 80, no. 3 (July 1972): 341–360.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    Tarter, B., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. William R. Dickey (1823–1903). (2015, July 7). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Dickey_William_R_1823-1903.

  • MLA Citation:

    Tarter, Brent and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "William R. Dickey (1823–1903)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 7 Jul. 2015. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: July 1, 2015 | Last modified: July 7, 2015


Contributed by Brent Tarter and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Brent Tarter is founding editor of the Dictionary of Virginia Biography