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Thomas Starr King (Replaced)


The statue of Thomas Starr King represented California in the National Statuary Hall Collection from 1931-2009. In 2009 the statue was replaced by one of Ronald Wilson Reagan.

Haig Patigian

Given by California in 1931
Replaced in 2009 by statue of Ronald Wilson Reagan

Thomas Starr King

Thomas Starr King, "the orator who saved the nation," was born December 17, 1824, in New York City. The sole support of his family at age 15, he was forced to leave school. Inspired by men like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Ward Beecher, King embarked on a program of self-study for the ministry. At the age of 20 he took over his father's former pulpit at the First Unitarian Church of Charlestown, Massachusetts.

In 1848 he was appointed pastor of the Hollis Street Unitarian Church, Boston, where he became one of the most famous preachers in New England. He vacationed in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and in 1859 wrote a book about the area entitled The White Hills: Their Legends, Landscapes and Poetry. In 1860 he accepted a call from the First Unitarian Church of San Francisco. In California during the Civil War, he spoke zealously in favor of the Union and is credited with saving California from becoming a separate republic. In addition, he organized the Pacific Branch of the Sanitary Commission, which cared for wounded soldiers.

A fiery orator, he raised over $1.5 million for the Sanitary Commission headquarters in New York, one-fifth of the total contributions from all the states in the Union. The relentless lecture circuit exhausted him, and he died in San Francisco on March 4, 1864, of diphtheria. Mountain peaks in New Hampshire and in Yosemite Park are named in his honor.

Last Updated: February 19, 2015