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Thomas A. Hendricks, 21st Vice President of the United States

Among the many influential politicians on the list of famous people from Indianapolis, Thomas A. Hendricks stands out as the 21st Vice President of the United States, serving under President Grover Cleveland from 1885 until his untimely death only eight months after the election. Over the course of his political career, Hendricks also served the people of Indiana in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Born in 1819 in Ohio, Thomas Hendricks moved with his family to Shelby County, Indiana as an infant. Hendricks was seemingly fated to serve in a high political office, as the Hendricks family already was positioned there with an uncle, William Hendricks, in the Indiana Governorship from 1822 until 1825. The Hendricks family home in Shelbyville was a frequent gathering place for local movers and shakers in the political arena. Young Thomas was therefore under the thrall of politics from an early age, and fell into step quite naturally, taking advantage of some excellent connections.

In school, Hendricks studied the classics and graduated from Hanover College in Hanover, Indiana. He then studied law in Pennsylvania, returning to Shelbyville to practice. It was during this period of his life that he married Eliza Morgan, in 1845, and had a son the couple named Morgan in 1848. Sadly, the boy died only three years later. Thomas Hendricks was at that point the speaker of the House of Representatives. He became known for his tenacious defense of unpopular positions.

In 1860, Hendricks moved to the capital city of Indianapolis and made an unsuccessful bid at the Democratic nomination for governor of Indiana. After the loss, Hendricks opened a law firm, in which he practiced until 1863, when he was elected Senator by the Indiana General Assembly.

Again finding himself among a small minority, Hendricks fought many battles during his senatorial stint. In 1868, he made another bid for governor, and once again was defeated, this time by a narrow margin.

In 1872, Thomas Hendricks’ name placed second as the nominee for Vice President at the Democratic National Convention. That same year, Hendricks was elected as the governor of Indiana, once more inheriting an unfriendly Republican-laden legislature. Hendricks has the distinction of being the first Democrat to be elected governor in the Northern U.S. after the American Civil War. His governorship was marred by infighting, since he inherited a decidedly Republican Indiana General Assembly, and his legislation was blocked at almost every turn. Also against him during this time was the Panic of 1873, an outcome of the Civil War which precipitated a severe economic depression across the nation, the “Long Depression.”

In March of 1885, the Grover Cleveland-Thomas Hendricks team was put into office as the 21st President and Vice President of the United States, marking the highlight of Hendricks’ tempestuous political life.

See the gravesite of Thomas A. Hendricks in this short video shot in Crown Hill Cemetery, in Indianapolis.

 

Hendricks was plagued by poor health during the scope of his career, the condition that eventually caused his demise just after becoming the Vice President.

Thomas Hendricks’ gravesite is in the prestigious Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, the capital city of Indiana, where he last had his home and where he passed away in his sleep at the age of sixty-six.

Because Hendricks lived for many years in Shelbyville, Indiana, his name appears on the list of famous people from Shelbyville, as well as Indianapolis.


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