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This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Young, John Smith

by H. B. Fant, 1996; Revised by SLNC Government and Heritage Library, January 2023

4 Nov. 1834–11 Oct. 1916

John Smith Young, Louisiana lawyer, Confederate officer, jurist, legislator, congressman, and sheriff, had ancestral connections with Granville County but was born on his father's plantation in Wake County, which was worked by twenty enslaved laborers. He was the fourth son of Granville natives, planter-physician John Y. (16 Apr. 1793–27 Aug. 1868) and Eliza Henry Jones Young (27 July 1807–12 June 1882). When he was about two years old, his father acquired a 640-acre section of former Chickasaw land in Marshall County, Miss., but when the state line was resurveyed in 1837, the plantation to which the doctor moved his North Carolina household fell into Fayette County, Tenn. Ultimately, in 1848, the family settled at Calhoun, a cultured community in southwestern Arkansas.

At age eighteen Young entered the sophomore class of Methodist-oriented Centenary College of Louisiana, where he was graduated in 1855. After reading law under Judge W. B. Egan, he joined the Masonic lodge and was admitted to the bar in 1857. He also acquired land and began enslaving people. In the spring of 1861 he became a third lieutenant in a company of Louisiana infantry. During the Civil War he was promoted through the grades to lieutenant colonel. He saw active service along the Mississippi River in Louisiana and in Virginia in the vicinity of Yorktown and Williamsburg, as well as elsewhere along the James River. After the war he returned to Louisiana and resumed his law practice.

In 1867 he married nineteen-year-old Fannie R. Hodges, and in November 1870, at age thirty-six, he was elected judge of Claiborne Parish Court. Reconstruction politics resulted in his removal from the court. He was then chosen as a candidate for lieutenant governor but was defeated. Instead, he was appointed parish attorney and served in that post until he was elected to the Louisiana legislature in 1874. There, through skillful political maneuvering by his friends, Young was selected to fill a seat in Congress, where he served from 19 Dec. 1878 to 3 Mar. 1879. For a time during this period he and his family lived in Monroe, but in the 1880s they moved to Shreveport. As a lawyer there he was selected by the state legislature to compile and revise the state penal code as well as the code of criminal practice. His work appeared as part of the 759-page volume, The Revised Statutes of the State of Louisiana, published in 1886.

As chairman of a board that supervised a primary of the white voters of Louisiana in 1892, he cast a tie-breaking ballot that in effect doomed the "malodorous Louisiana lottery." In the same year he was appointed sheriff and ex officio tax collector of Caddo Parish, and in 1896 he was reelected to a four-year term.

Following the death of his wife in 1891, Young was married in 1896 to Mrs. Mattie Hamilton Morrison. A member of the Presbyterian church, he served a four-year term as elder of the church in Shreveport. Survived by sons Edward H., John L., and Joseph B., Young was buried in Oakland Cemetery, Monroe.

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